FILM: Spy Vs. Spy

John le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a splendid film

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy became a TV mini-series in 1979 and is now an equally splendid film.

John le Carré is nicely placed halfway between serious novelist and genre practitioner; his spy stories are marvels of mood and character (and realistic enough that Britain’s real spooks insisted on reading his manuscripts prior to publication just in case art was doing too good a job of imitating life). Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, one of his best novels, became a TV mini-series in 1979 and is now an equally splendid film.

The protagonist is George Smiley (Gary Oldman), an espionage veteran at the very top rung of MI6. It’s the bleakest period of the Cold War and a small group within MI6 is afraid that their agency has been infiltrated by a double agent feeding intelligence to the Russians. And if this mole does exist, he’s doing a brilliant job of covering his tracks. The plan is to place someone equally clever on his trail, and Smiley is dragged out of retirement to make sense of a botched op in Budapest, an alleged rogue agent on the lam, and the whiff of a trail left behind by the just-deceased head of MI6 (John Hurt), who was convinced that the mole had to be one of only five men.

Tinker is the antithesis of a Bond thriller: instead of suave spies and deadly dames there are careerist politicians and MI6 bureaucrats whose quietly paranoid lives are grubby moreso than glamorous. And it’s brainpower instead of firepower that gets the job done, as Smiley works his way through a shades-of-grey world full of shadows and deception. The script is dense and subtle, and makes demands on a viewer unfamiliar with the labyrinthine story. But the reward is a riveting chess game of a film, with strong performances from A-list actors Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Ciarán Hinds. M

 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ★ ★

Directed byTomas Alfredson

Starring Mark Strong, John Hurt

R – 127 minutes

Continues at the Odeon

Just Posted

Esquimalt artist captures culinary personalities with body art

Mary Ploegsma’s unique chef/tattoo portrait series on display this month in Chinatown café

Jazz bargains available for music lovers this month

Left Coast Jazz Fest offers four-show package deal, extends discount for TD JazzFest ticket holders

WINE NOTES: Wild about the whites

Plenty of reason to try out these affordable whites, writes Monday wine columnist Robert Moyes

Animal-loving comic Carla Collins performing fundraiser show for SPCA

Sellout show June 20 could raise up to $35,000 for Victoria branch of organization

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Getting funky in Fernwood

Eclectic neighbourhood draws many visitors, laid-back feel popular with residents

Rick Mercer-led comedy team in for second Just for Laughs show at UVic

Comedy company will stage two shows Nov. 16 at Farquhar Auditorium

Trade expo a key part of 2019 BC Seafood Festival

Comox Valley hosts celebration of seafood industry; numerous events on tap this weekend

Samoa bans Elton John biopic, Rocketman

Depictions of homosexuality, contrary to law, cause country’s censor to prevent film’s screening

REVIEW: If you like farce, you’ll love Noises Off at Langham Court!

By Sheila Martindale The nine cast members in Langham Court Theatre’s new… Continue reading

Celtic songs tuned up for Sooke coffeehouse

Celtic Reflections to perfrom on June 15

Most Read