In 2008 Tomas Alfredson made “Let the right one in” an excellent vampire movie that was totally unlike any other film in that genre. Here, three years later in his first English language movie, he makes a spy thriller that is as different from a James Bond film as it is possible to be. Set in London and Budapest in 1973, it is a simple story with a very complicated plot. Basically, it has been discovered that there is a double agent in the London office of MI5 and George Smiley, nicely played by Gary Oldman, has been brought in to unearth his identity.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is set in a world where spying is anything but glamorous, dull offices full of middle aged men, who drink too much to disguise the fact that their lives consist of paperwork and petty office politics. The cast reads like a who’s who of British and Irish actors, Gary Oldman was nominated for both an Academy Award and a BAFTA for his role. Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy all feature. Cathy Burke has a lovely cameo as Connie Sachs, a sacked Russia specialist with a phenomenal memory, who misses mothering “her boys”.
The script is well written, in that the dialogue is terse and tight, this was also nominated for an Oscar. I suspect there is not enough exposition, I already knew the story and had to put some pieces together from memory, so for an audience coming to it completely fresh it might be quite difficult to follow in places. The costumes and setting direction was definitely approached as a 1970s period drama and attention to detail was maintained in the interior scenes and fashions. It was nice to see a few tantalising shots of London, I guess Hampstead’s Swimming Ponds haven’t changed much in the intervening years.
The movie won Best British Film at the BAFTAs for 2011 and was in many top 10 of the year lists. It is a very good London film and I recommend it if you like spy stories and would be interested in seeing a rendition that concentrates on the intricacies of the storylines and highlights the more prosaic work of a secret agent.