When we were young and foolish and devouring the sex-and-sadism laden adventures of James Bond, we were told by the la di dah, cultured gentry to read John Le Carre. Being perverse little children, we decided to continue with Fleming and thanks to Sean Connery down to Daniel Craig, Ursula Andress right through to Olga Kurylenko, the super spy provided enough eye candy for an almighty sugar rush.
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” the first novel in Le Carre's Karla Trilogy, was published in 1974. The novel tells the story of George Smiley, a middle-aged intelligence operative (as different from the libidinous Bond as can be) brought out of retirement to smoke out a mole in the secret service.
The movie based on the book, produced by Studio Canal and directed by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson, also eschews the guns, girls and gadgets formula of the Bond films. That does not mean the film plods along on leaden feet. It moves at a brisk pace through suitably exotic locations — there is Istanbul (where James Bond met Tatiana Romanova who came all the way from Russia with love), Budapest and Seventies London where red phone booths were in use and not preserved as a quaint oddity with the names and numbers of anatomically-impossible shady ladies promising you a good time. The violence is horrific because it is so matter of fact.
The ensemble cast lifts the movie to another level with Gary Oldman making for a brilliant Smiley. There is also Colin Firth as Bill Haydon, William Hurt as Control, the head of the Circus, the British Intelligence, and Benedict Cumberbatch with a strange helmet of blonde hair (who totally rocks as Holmes in the BBC series “Sherlock”) as Peter Guillam. Casting may, however, be a bit of a problem and reveals a crucial plot point for those who have not read the book.
The movie does justice to the book's complicated plot and thanks to Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan's competent screenplay, it is not obscure or inaccessible. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like the book is a mature meditation on what would happen if James Bond were to grow up.
And yes, I am going to squeeze in “Tinker Tailor…” between my 23rd reading of “Goldfinger” and “On Her Majesty's Secret Service.”
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds
Storyline: A mole hunt in the British secret service opens a can of worms
Bottomline: The super cast and script are complemented by meticulous detailing