Venice Reviews of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ Suggest It’s the Movie We Want It to Be


If you want to see the face of jealousy just come over to my place where I sit reading the thoughts of others as my most anticipated film of the last half of 2011, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, has played in Venice to impressive reviews. The film hits UK theaters on September 16, but won’t make its way to domestic theaters until December, and even worse, Venice is the film’s only festival stop. I know, dry your eyes you little whiner and just tell me what people are saying… I hear you loud and clear.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is based on the John le Carre’s Cold War spy novel. Set in the 1970s, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a recently retired MI6 agent, is doing his best to adjust to a life outside the secret service. However, when a disgraced agent reappears with information concerning a mole at the heart of the Circus, Smiley is drawn back into the murky field of espionage.

Over at Variety, Leslie Felperin calls it “an inventive, meaty distillation of Le Carre’s 1974 novel.” Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter calls it “a visual delight with an authentic British feel.” And Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist places his opinion firmly in the headline calling it “a remarkable, quietly devastating spy movie.”

Now let’s dig a little deeper, but do know I did a lot of skimming and may have missed a few meaty parts of their reviews as I didn’t want to spoil the plot for you or myself in any way.

As far as the cast is concerned and those expectations this film will earn Gary Oldman his first Oscar nom, Felperin writes:

Casting is one of the pic’s strongest suits, with an ensemble that reps some of the finest talent working in Blighty. Everyone brings their A game, with Oldman setting the bar high as an eerily still, slightly sinister Smiley. Particularly worthy of mention are Cumberbatch, who in one charged scene gets across the cruel debt of silence secret servicemen will always owe, and Firth and Hurt, both in particularly choleric, amusing form. Kathy Burke (who starred in Oldman’s Nil by Mouth) has a vivid, salty cameo here as Connie Sachs.

Guy Lodge at In Contention adds to the performance conversation with his thoughts on the supporting cast:

Still, There are multiple momentary pleasures to be had across this spread of Britain’s finest — the shivery dignity of Colin Firth’s final scene, or even the way Simon McBurney ostentatiously bites into a slice of toast — but it’s the ever-impressive Tom Hardy who, together with the aforementioned Burke, most memorably seizes his metered screen time, bringing the same louchely knowing intelligence to proceedings that he used to breathe air into last year’s Inception, tempered with the darting fearfulness of a character who scarcely trusts his own words.

Young talks about director Tomas Alfredson’s part in the making of the film saying:

[With] Swedish director Tomas Alfredson at the helm of his first English language film, one might be pardoned for hoping for a bit of the spookiness of his Let the Right One In or the political passion of le Carre’s The Constant Gardener. Instead this good, old-fashioned square-off between spymasters Karla and George Smiley demonstrates a lot more loyalty than most of its characters. It is one of the few films so visually absorbing, felicitous shot after shot, that its emotional coldness is noticed only at the end, when all the plot twists are unraveled in a solid piece of thinking-man’s entertainment for upmarket thriller audiences.

Littleton adds his thoughts on just about everyone else:

Few films here at Venice had such high expectations beforehand, so it gives us great pleasure to report that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is, on first viewing at least, incredibly rich and perfectly constructed, sitting with The Conversation and The Ipcress File in the very upper reaches of the genre. Alfredson appeared to be a major talent after Let The Right One In, and he exceeds his break-out here, never letting the style get in the way of the storytelling (as happened once or twice in the vampire film), while retaining an impeccable eye for period. The greys and browns that dominate the film–thanks to sterling work from DoP Hoyte van Hoytema–perfectly capture the grim days of 1970s Britain, and the attention to detail displayed is really quite extraordinary, every set and backdrop adding texture to the action; production designer Maria Durkovic gets a big gold star (we’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention Alberto Iglesias’ brilliant score, which does a great deal in terms of keeping the tension up) . Alfredson revels in the analogue quality enabled by the setting, lingering on details of paper and tape in a computer-free world.

As I said, the film doesn’t hit domestic theaters until December 9, but those lucky Brits will be sitting down to watch it in less than two weeks, building my anticipation to a fevered pitch. I can’t wait to see it.

For more on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, including pics and trailers, click here. I have added the most recent international trailer below.

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Weekend: Aug. 22, 2019, Aug. 25, 2019

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