Why is it that American movies have yet to create a espionage thriller comparable to them Brits? (Don’t even get me started on rock & roll!) Everything from The Third Man, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold to James Bond. As for our homegrown we just have Jason Bourne, The Good Shepherd, and Tom Clancy. If only Norman Mailer finished writing the conclusion to Harlot’s Ghost….
I guess the fact is cloak and dagger tactics don’t bode well in cow towns like Boise, Idaho or Shaftsbury, Vermont, whereas any village in Europe is a ripe setting for assassination plots and double dealings. Besides, I can’t imagine a spy with a hillbilly accent. But at least we have a lock on the detective genre. I mean just look what them fucking ‘tards are doing with Sherlock Holmes! And so the latest import by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, breathes new air into the genre even though it is mainly shot in a claustrophobic soundproof think tank called “The Circus” with a bunch of suits huddled around a table smoking fags giving each other the stink eye.
In the eye of this quiet storm is recently dismissed into retirement British Intelligence Officer, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) who looks around this poker table trying to figure out who the KGB mole is or in other words, bluffing. But as the the old poker saying goes, “if you can’t spot the sucker around the table then you are the sucker.” Much of course is owed to John le Carre seminal novel though the adaptation seems a bit muddled probably due to compression and trying to weed thru the subterfuge and decipher all that spy stuff, code names, and operations – one can easily become disorientated with what the fuck is going on.
(Benedict Cumberbatch – the real Sherlock Holmes)
But if you are familiar with the Cold War climate during the late 50’s and 60’s and the infamous Cambridge Five which are somewhat loosely represented in this film by a very motley looking crew comprised of Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Truman Capote, and Ciaran Hinds then you will go with the flow of things and begin to admire the amazing cinematography, direction, and set design. I never thought it possible that seeing a room full of file cabinets, desks, reading lamps could look so beautiful. Not to say Gary Oldman’s performance wasn’t admirable but he was definitely the antithesis to his cop persona in The Professional. He didn’t even utter a fucking word until about 20 minutes into the movie! I mean I thought I was in the wrong theater and mistakenly turned homo and sat in on The Artist. All kidding aside, Gary’s character was methodically subdued and like a Bobby Fischer assigning the pieces on this chessboard only to find that his opponent was not them Ruskies but his whore of a wife.