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“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, directed by Tomas Alfredson, is based on a 1974 Cold War spy novel of the same name by John Le Carré. Nominated for three Academy Awards this year (Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score) and the highest-grossing film at the British box office for three weeks, this movie was both a critical and commercial success.

George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is a former spy who comes out of retirement when the head of British Intelligence (John Hurt) asks him to help seek out a Soviet "mole" (double agent) in the ranks. The mole could be one of several people: “Tinker” Sir Percy Allelline (Toby Jones), “Tailor” Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), “Soldier” Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), as well as Smiley himself—“Spy”. It's a process of elimination game, though we know from the start that it’s not Smiley.

Despite the critical raves about the merits of this spy thriller, there are several critical flaws as well. Because the original novel is nearly 400 pages, the film ends up being extremely expansive and discursive, covering two decades of grievances and making too many unjustified jumps in time. Moreover, it assumes that the viewers are all well-versed in Cold War events and spy jargon. In many cases, this assumption may prove safe, as a number of people who go to see this film are either Le Carré fans or people who lived in Europe during that era. For the rest of us who aren’t so well-adapted to the world of 1970’s British/Soviet intelligence, understanding the minute details of the film is almost impossible.

Even though the exact plot is hard to grasp, the cast made this movie entirely worth watching. Gary Oldman gives a brilliantly subtle portrayal of George Smiley, a well-dressed, middle-aged man who hides his intelligence beyond an impenetrable mask of mediocrity. Colin Firth makes sporadic appearances throughout the film, claiming the viewers’ attention even when he doesn’t have any spoken lines or stage directions. Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Smiley’s assistant, gave a cutting performance, even though it was difficult to understand what his character was doing for most of the film; such is the power of good acting.

The ending of the film was powerful—unique and breathtaking. Though many plot points still remained unclarified, the ending was a catharsis to the tune of an old French pop song. All in all, a puzzling film but a good experience.




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