I wonder if many children even learn nursery rhymes in 2011. The old chant of “tinker, tailor” led to this title and to other book and film titles (“Rich Man, Poor Man”) although the line “beggarman, thief” always sticks in my mind, from the shock value it offered during skipping and hopscotch games.
The original TV series had a leisurely pace to explore various themes around Cold War spying. It thrilled viewers with its curiously realistic and downbeat tones. Alec Guinness gave one of his greatest performances as washed up spy George Smiley, out of favour with his bosses and struggling to find the truth.
Making a two-hour film from a much-loved and feted 18-hour TV series seems a tough challenge. This is a terrific film which deserves an Oscar for its star, Gary Oldman. I forgot Guinness within minutes and I adore Sir Alec.
You wait for one tour-de-force performance to come along and two come in this. Gary Oldman rivets your attention from his first appearance. But Tom Hardy as Ricky Tarr is absolutely amazing. He gives Oldman a run for his money. What an actor! In this and in “Warrior”, he is astonishing and you can’t look anywhere else when he is on screen.
I miss Ann Smiley in this movie, but Kathy Burke brings an incredible energy to Connie Sachs. It wasn’t a good era for girl power, after all.
Like Ann Smiley, Karla is merely a phantom and a photograph here and the lack of the “other side” feels like a gap.
Tomas Alfredson, who directed the brilliant horror movie “Let The Right One In” in 2008 – one of the few movies I saw at the cinema in that year – has a wonderful touch with light and dark and zooms in on the 1970s with great panache and flair. Yes, there are anachronisms, but the general feel of the time is accurate.
Not having laptops, email, mobiles and video games feels like another world, all symbolised by the slow movement of the document tray from floor to floor, via an elevator system.
Phones ring and people cross rooms to answer them. Gasp!
It’s another world.
Colin Firth and Mark Strong both put in strong performances, but they are phantasms, compared with Oldman and Hardy.
There are no car chases, explosions or modern CGI effects. Yet even the young men at the Stratford Picturhouse loved this. I found there were some long bits in the middle, but my attention span was fully engaged whenever Oldman or Hardy was on the screen.
The music is terrific and ratchets up the tension. All of the locations feel authentic.
See it or buy the DVD. It’s terrific.