A NEW adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was always likely to raise the hackles of John le Carré purists, who were satisfied with Sir Alec Guinness’s turn as taciturn spy George Smiley.
Tomas Alfredson’s film doesn’t really try to compete with the depth of John Irvin’s 1979 mini-series and while the novel has been truncated, the new film retains a choking air of suspense.
Alfredson demonstrates the same virtuosity behind the camera as he did in the vampire story Let The Right One In.
He frames every shot with precision, stylishly overhearing conversations in darkened hallways or through walls as if we are the spies.
Control (John Hurt), the chief of a 1970s British Secret Intelligence Service unit known as the Circus, learns that Russian counterpart Karla has placed a mole within the ranks.
To unmask the traitor, Control dispatches an agent to Hungary who is shot dead. So Control turns to trusted protege Smiley (Gary Oldman), to uncover the intrigues of the other Circus members.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is intelligent filmmaking of the highest calibre, distinguished by tour de force performances from the predominantly British cast.
Oldman doesn’t utter a word for what seems like an eternity but he commands every frame and will be a front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar that has eluded him. Pacing is deliberately slow and some audiences, who have been force-fed thrills at breakneck speed by Hollywood, may lose patience.
That would be a pity because once you surrender to Alfredson’s vision, the knot of tension slowly tightens until we, like Smiley, are desperate to lure the double agent into the open.