By Le Anne Lindsay
At the Philadelphia Film Society preview screening of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, I was handed a cheat sheet for the film — a guide of the characters, Secret Intelligence Service jargon, background on The Circus etc… Now let me tell you, I love these weekly film screenings, but I come to them from an 8 hour day at a mind-numbing, zombie-inducing day gig, which upon leaving, I have over an hour’s drive in rush hour traffic (gas at $3.43 a gallon) to reach Center City. I park a 15 min walk away from the theater in order to get free parking. With no time to stop for dinner, I am revived only by the Ritz Theater’s $2 mint hot chocolate.
I don’t tell you all this for you to feel sorry for me or even to emphasize my dedication to this movie/blogging “hobby.” Rather, I make the point to say, the cheat sheet is a fun bit of movie propaganda – but if I can follow the plot without confusion, coming at the film from a state of low energy, then I can assure the average movie-goer, a background in spy novel fanaticism is not required to enjoy this film. Director Tomas Alfredson’s ([i]Let the Right One In[/i]) new movie, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based on the 1974 British novel by John le Carre, the first novel of the “Karla Trilogy” and the inspiration for, perhaps, the first film of a franchise.
This spy thriller features Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong and Ciarán Hinds as the core members of MI-6 Cambridge Headquarters “The Circus”. Set during the Cold War era, the story follows recently retired 2nd in command, George Smiley (Oldman) through his investigation of a possible double agent within the ranks. Those looking for a lot of spy thrilling action may be disappointed in this film; the concentration is on faces – expressions and lack thereof. It’s about depicting a moody, dingy, 70’s London, about building an atmosphere of mistrust and fraternity.
During my commute, I was listening to a podcast featuring a government conspiracy theorist/whistleblower named David Wilcox. Wilcox is purported to be very Zen and in touch with other worlds and his own power. Yet, he was on the radio program blubbering like a baby, truly frightened by a recent death threat (he was told he’d be tortured to death). You don’t expect him to have a normal reaction to this kind of thing, that he should be more prepared and prepossessed. Same goes for the characters of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. These are trained agents for goodness sakes! Yet they lose their tempers over disloyalty, are thrown off course by the opposite sex, breakdown when accused of double-crossing, risk plans for friendship, are haunted by sentimental items and the one that got away. These elements speak to a basic humanity, even for those in the business of being hardened, stoic and pragmatic. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens Friday, December 23, 2011.
Le Anne Lindsay is a PFS Blog Contributor. To read more of her work, visit Tinsel & Tine.
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