Film #30: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

by: Tomas Alfredson
in: English
for: 127 minutes
on: 18 September

I went to see this having heard quite a few good things about it, but to be honest, I didn’t really like it. I had a hard time connecting with it, possibly because the characters that inhabit this film inhabit a different era from me, very much the Cold War and not the modern day, and I found the plot confusing and dense. I sort of managed to miss the big reveal at the end somehow. Basically, I ended up bored in the cinema.

During the past few months, I’ve been listening to Mark Kermode’s podcast on the BBC, which has been entertaining me greatly, and for the past few weeks he’s been constantly having to defend himself from the public who write in – they tend to agree with me on this – and he is continually claiming that the plot doesn’t matter at all and that it’s about men betraying each other. I sort of want to write a rebuttal to it, but it’s not like he’s going to read it, and it’s not like I’m exactly verbose… but so many people have been writing in to say that it absolutely is about spying. To me it seems to be certainly about both, but I wasn’t enraptured by it, and as I say, the spy plot that is running along during the film gets really confusing at times. Perhaps it doesn’t matter in the end, because it’s all about the relationships between the characters, but in that case it could well be easier to follow.

The betrayal plots are interesting, though, when you manage to unpick them from the rest of what’s going on in the film, and the characters really do manage to play off each other well. Interesting or amusing from my point of view, as well, is that everyone in the film seems to be gay. But that’s pretty irrelevant

But on the subject of the characters themselves, there are some brilliant performances, particularly by Gary Oldman as the central character, who really makes you forget that he ever camped it up as Zorg or played a rogue wizard in Harry Potter, and really owns his performance like no other.

But when it all comes together, there are some great moments, and great performances, but I found the whole thing to be dense and frankly boring, because I didn’t find myself connecting on more than a superficial level with it.

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