Film Review: Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is a dense spy drama without momentum


Gary Oldman and Colin Firth star in the spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, adapted from the 1974 British novel of the same name by John le Carré. The film follows George Smiley (Oldman) as he is forced out of semi-retirement to identify a double agent who has been siphoning information to the Soviet Russian government.

The title comes from code names given to the top agents in the Secret Intelligence Service, all of whom are suspected of being the mole. With so many characters under suspicion, allegiance can be confusing. It’s only through Smiley’s cunning use of vital information and unlikely allies that the informant is ultimately discovered.

The film is dialogue-heavy and drawn out, so those seeking an action-packed ride are better off catching the new Sherlock Holmes. While there are certainly some intense scenes, usually followed by gore, they are so infrequent the rest of the film seems to drag on.

At the film’s close, the big revelation comes as little surprise. Anyone paying attention to each suspect throughout the film should be able to guess the culprit. The problem, however, is how none of the clues or hints can be derived from the plot.

The writing is dry, especially for a “thriller.” For the first hour and 20 minutes, viewers know only that there is a double agent and that Smiley is on their trail. Frequently strange character development and directing choices only further detract from the movie’s categorization as a whodunnit spy drama.

That said, the acting and setting are both well done. The dialogue, clothing and various homes and buildings all resemble late 20th-century England, immersing the audience in the Cold War era. Each actor, especially Oldman, shows that their character clearly has a stake in this world-changing assignment.

It is important to note, however, that the film is based on a novel. The movie’s faults, such as poor writing and slow pace, could be attributed to a poor book-to-film translation.

Promised to be a thriller full of espionage and intrigue, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a minor disappointment.