Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Film Review – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I was not expecting much from the 2011 film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The original 1974 John le Carré book; what can you say? Simply magnificent. The 1979 BBC TV version staring Alec Guinness as George Smiley: triumphant. Then there was the 1988 BBC Radio 4 version staring Rene Basilico: brilliant. How could anyone top that pedigree?

Well, maybe, the film didn't top that pedigree but it was certainly enjoyable. Unlike previous versions they went for a moody, bleak telling of the story. So there were long scenes with little in the way of dialogue. Inevitably this resulted in much of the story detail being left out. This along with the unavoidable constraint of film, that it has to be briefer, the story more compact, does worry me slightly. If you do not already know the story will you follow along? Somehow I have my doubts. Being so familiar with the story it is hard for me to tell; but I kept finding myself thinking, 'oh, that refers to…' or 'oh, that's the result of…' and referring back to source. The telling of a tale should be self contained. Was it here?

For me the stand out performance was that of Toby Jones as Percy Alleline. For most of the other characters previous exponents seemed superior. Not with Percy Alleline; here Toby Jones was clearly superlative. I would like to see him playing this character type where he has the substantial role. I hope he gets the chance.

If you do view the film then please also take the time to indulge in at least one, preferably all, of the versions indicated in the opening paragraph. You will pick up so much more of the story and, possibly, appreciate the film more.

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