January 15, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

There's lots of old-school trenchcoating in this movie.
I am very fond of spy thrillers. They come in all shapes and sizes, and based on the trailers, I guessed that this one would be impenetrably complicated and jam-packed with the best English character actors. As long as you don't expect the crack open the puzzle box, I can recommend the movie. I also recommend the big screen. It's too quiet and dark to enjoy on TV at home, unless you watch it late at night with all the lights out.
Gary Oldman is retired espionage veteran George Smiley, called back to the MI6 to root out the Soviet mole amongst the agents who control British spies behind the Iron Curtain. The suspects:
(L-R): Dencik, Firth, Jones, Hurt, Oldman, and Hinds.
Gary Oldman is terrific as a spy winding down his middle age, creaking into retirement. It feels like he hardly talks at all in the movie. How do you write a part like this on paper? People reveal themselves to him and he observes, nods, grimaces, and gives orders. Only in the dénouement does he reveal what he's thinking, and he only raises his voice one time. Oldman's finally been nominated for the Sean Connery "De Facto Lifetime Achievement" Oscar for this part. Of course it's not his career best performance: I would be hard-pressed to choose between his Sid Vicious, Dracula, and Stansfield the crooked narcotics detective in LEON.

The movie is full of tension, suspense, drama, but almost no action. Except for three people getting shot,-- two very matter-of-fact, and one extremely graphically-- the spying consists of listening, watching, and reading typed reports.

Cheers to the art direction for the dour 1970s color palette. I think the sun came out for one scene, the remainder is gloomy wet Englishness.

The stellar cast also includes Mark Strong, who dies in the first 5 minutes (no surprise there), John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Next Big Thing Tom Hardy: After grabbing everyone's attention in Inception, he's wearing a bad wig in TTSS, and all over your TV this week in commercials for THIS MEANS WAR. He'll be Batman's nemesis Bane in the new Dark Knight movie later in 2012.

I was also pleased to discover there were three speaking parts for women! It's really easy to eliminate all females from spy movies, but TTSS includes one female analyst, one secretary (Lady Edith from Downton Abbey), and one wife.

ALSO by Gary Oldman on STUB HUBBY:

Another Rant About West Newton Cinema:  It's always a gamble seeing a movie in West Newton. The clientele are the worst variety of upper-class entitled seniors, talking to each other like we're in their living room. This type of moviegoer NEVER understands the plot of the movie, and TTSS was sure to be complex. The good news this time, there were only maybe two dozen people in Cinema 1, and the baby boomers near me were quiet. I could hear murmuring in the distance between EVERY dialog scene, but I could live with it.