Film Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, ZZZzzzzzz….

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I haven’t got into film reviews here at rationalbrain, but after seeing this gem earlier this week, I need to get it off my chest.

I’m certainly not a fan of spy thriller novels, and admittedly have rather narrow tastes in literature. But I don’t mind a good spy movie, which is why this movie seemed appealing enough at the outset.

I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, in case you still want to see the movie after reading this. God knows you need some reward for sitting through it. But the plot is that one of the operatives in the team at the British secret service is a double agent, and the movie is about one of the team (Smiley) methodically working to uncover the rat.

And, oh boy is he methodical.

The movie grinds through the various conversations between Smiley and the operatives, dissecting recent events for clues.

I say ‘grinds’ because that’s what it was. A grind.

I’ve really never seen a movie that is so slooowwwwww. I’m told that the intention was that the silences, and atmosphere, and pauses, and looks between the protagonists would tell as much of a story as the dialogue. Really? I was there, and those parts of the film told me nothing, other than the director tried to hard to make this an ‘arty’ film. He may be Scandinavian, but Ibsen he aint. And here was I thinking that the ‘talkie’ was here to stay.

Anyway, a fortnight later, we arrive at the limp exposition, which wasn’t really worth the wait. I guess that is a spoiler, of sorts, sorry.

Two hours I’ll never get back.

Perusing a range of critics’ reviews was also interesting. Predictably, there are the rave reviews, especially about Gary Oldman’s performance. A sample from the gushing supporters includes:

Le Carré is a master of the genre and under Alfredson’s dense direction, the revitalisation of this classic is elevated to new heights as well as a new audience

The story, skillfully mined from Mr. le Carré’s labyrinthine book and set in 1973, is a pleasurably sly and involving puzzler – a mystery about mysteries within mysteries.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” looks, sounds and feels exactly right.

If you enjoy an intelligent, realistic spy thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not to be missed.

Actually, when you re-read these reviews, they don’t actually say whether they enjoyed the movie or not. Hmmm.

On the other hand, the following quotes exactly reflect my observations:

A nearly affectless espionage tale, a Cold War spy thriller that’s chilly and boasts few thrills.

Some great performances, style to spare, a sense of moody menace … Sad to say, then, that it’s virtually impenetrable, and possibly downright boring.

This is the kind of movie you’d want to watch with a rewind button handy. Actually, at 127 painfully paced minutes, a fast-forward button might help too.

Hitchcock once said ‘What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out? Tinker Tailor is hellbent on creating drama out of only the dull bits – and as interesting as the movie is to look at, it’s not very suspenseful at all.

If the best thing about a spy movie is the wallpaper, perhaps you’ve miscalculated.

Does the identity of the mole even matter?

You get the idea.

I found it not very suspenseful at all, and can’t agree with the description of ‘impenetrable’. If I were to provide a quote  in the idiom of a movie reviewer it would be:

This moody piece is engaging for the eyeballs, but the brain runs away screaming. A triumph of style over substance, without even a decent punchline to salvage the lost time or persuade the viewer into thinking it was two hours well spent – rationalbrain.

Fortunately, it was a balmy summer evening, we’d had a lovely meal and glass of wine in Lygon St. with good friends prior to the movie, and gelati afterwards, so the evening wasn’t a complete loss. But I could have done without the $9 anaesthetic in between.

I give it maybe a half out of five, for the music and atmospherics, and ’cause I’m a nice guy.


2 thoughts on “Film Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, ZZZzzzzzz….

    RB-lite said:
    January 26, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Actually I thought it was an enthralling movie. Perhaps your reaction was because there were no aliens or self-opening spaceship doors to engage you, and no riveting ‘life is sooo different on a spaceship/time machine/other planet’ plot.

      rationalbrain said:
      January 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Welcome rblite and sarcasm noted. I was wondering how long it would be for someone to make that observation. I suppose i deserve it.
      On the other hand it could be just that the movie plot was trivial and the execution miscalculated. Im clearly not the only one of that opinion. Or perhaps all those other reviewers i read are also yearning for some nice ray gun action.

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