I should have known from the moment I first saw the poster advertising the film adaptation of John le Carré’s spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that I would be left confused. As a literature graduate, a seeming list with No Punctuation left me baffled. As did the plot.
Despite my inability to deftly differentiate between spies, motives and contrived flashback sequences, I did enjoy the film. Not only did it boast a stellar cast – including no less than Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch – it also had that evocatively grainy darkness to it that films set in a pre-1980 era seem to have.
The basic plot concerned a ‘bad apple’ hanging at the top of the British intelligence tree. But which of the seemingly trustworthy, seemingly loyal spies was in fact an informer, leaking information overseas? Gary Oldman’s recently-redundant Smiley (an ironic name if ever there were – the extent of his smiley-ness saw him crack a weak smile at the office Christmas party), a miserable, walked-over man whose wife has left him, is called back to the service to work out who the guilty culprit is.
The unexpected plot twist saw the least likely of the men revealed as the rotter. Boldly-bespectacled Smiley’s deduction methods made little sense (although I have no doubt that they were highly ingenious) and seemed to revovle mainly around him sitting in dingy rooms with Trigger from Only Fools and Horses, gravely studying chess pieces with the spies’ faces Sellotaped on to them.
However, through the flashbacks, the spies’ layers were gradually revealed, presenting whole men with rounded and not always likeable characters. Tom Hardy’s Ricky Tarr was arguably the most likeable of the men: his pouty-lipped appeal was initially hidden beneath a rather odd floppy blonde wig (at least I hope it was a wig) and an Aghan coat. However, his tragic vulnerability was revealed when his love interest was kidnapped by sinister Moscow crimelord, Karla.
Being a spy flick, the plots are clever, the actors faultless and the violence bloody. My one question – why are the Russians always the bad guys?
Rating: 8/10 – in cinemas now