Compressing a John le Carré espionage novel into a two hours feature is no small task. Le Carré, himself a veteran of MI6, the British foreign-intelligence service, writes spy stories that, for the most part, lack the action and physical violence typical of James Bond, but are rich in moral complexities, characters, and involved timelines. His heroes are grey agents trying to make sense of it all. Their weapons are not high-tech gadgets but rather their own intelligence, and most of their fighting is composed of psychological warfare.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is therefore not a story for everyone, and even less so a film to win popular approval. Yet, exceptionally directed by Tomas Alfredson from a screenplay written by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan (based on the 1974 le Carré novel of the same name,) it manages to engage an audience with patience for this genre. Set in London in the early 1970s, in the midst of the Cold War, the film stars an excellent Gary Oldman as George Smiley, and co-stars a great cast led by Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ciarán Hinds. The film’s opening is very confusing for those who didn’t read the novel, but if one lets go of trying to understand everything from the start, and just let the events play out, it all comes together at a pace that slowly but surely picks up. Kudos for the art direction for creating an authentic feel for the time.