Saturday, January 28, 2012

In short: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

If there's a more peculiar and specific way to make a guy feel old than Tomas Alfredson's rather brilliant John le Carré adaptation just found for me, I don't really want to know what it is. What got me was the (in fact pretty obvious, but I've never pretended to be able to see the obvious before it bites me in the ass) realization that you can adapt the good novels of John le Carré today only by turning them into period pieces, which feels slightly off to someone who does remember the Cold War as more than just a more or less exciting background for movies.

Anyhow, Alfredson not only makes his film a period piece, but also a film heavily reminiscent in spirit of the sort of film major Hollywood studios in the 70s - before the arrival of the blockbuster and long before a whole industry seemingly turned to prefer whining about piracy while making huge profits instead of actually trying to make movies worth paying for - still dared to produce: slow, based on grown-up characters having grown-up character feelings, talky, and sure not only of their own intelligence, but also of their audience's intelligence. Alfredson's film displays a subtlety and a trust in the ability of his actors to emphasise the complexity of their characters without becoming showy that is extraordinary, and that is - not surprisingly - repaid by those actors in form of brilliant, subtle and nuanced performances worthy of a script and direction just as subtle and nuanced.

Thematically, Tinker, Tailor is a movie not only about the paranoia that comes with the spy territory, but also one asking questions about loyalty, trust, the necessity of the little betrayals that get people through the day, it's also a movie especially centring around the question if there actually is something like a little betrayal; are the little betrayals perhaps more destructive in the long run?

Tinker, Tailor's biggest strength is that it doesn't answer these questions cleanly, even though it ties up its complex narrative of double-crosses and small and large cruelties clearly enough. A mystery like the one of the Russian double agent in the British intelligence services, can, after all, be solved with finality; it's just it's emotional costs and emotional reasons that truly can't.


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