Written by: FFT Webmaster | December 9th, 2011
OUT OF 4
The background desperation of the Cold War is rendered intensely in director Tomas Alfredson’s (“Let The Right One In”) meticulously constructed version of John Le Carre’s 1974 novel Gary Oldman gives a remarkable performance as master spy, George Smiley, who was portrayed in the classic 1979 mini-series by Sir Alec Guinness. It takes the Smiley character nearly 20 minutes before informing us that he is retiring, but this is just a ploy to resist an assignment that he can not escape, to find the Soviet mole that has infiltrated the top tier of the British Secret Intelligence service referred to by professional spies as the “Circus”.
The all star cast which includes Colin Firth and John Hurt makes every gesture and every frame significant– advancing the plot and capturing the atmosphere of sad menace. The office building where the MI 6 meets is composed of sound proof-pods- literally “tombs of isolation” keeping the perpetual efforts to keep secrets unheard at the forefront. Every set in the film version is an improvement on the original 5.5 hour BBC series. The environment and world of betrayal surrounding John Hurt’s dying spymaster named oddly Control, as he has to prove that he has not failed, but, has been sabotaged becomes a character unto itself. Toby Jones plays Percy Alleline who will succeed Control (John Hurt) as the head of British intelligence. He is extraordinary as a bitter, scheming, striving lawn ornament of a middle manager who is plotting a takeover as a desperate snarling force.
All of the actors (Mark Strong, Ciarin Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy) had to play complex characters that are already flesh and blood in the minds of those that are to see their film in very short vignettes. The script is streamlined, focused and enriched by the husband and wife team of Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O’Connor. It is easily an effort worthy of your attention and time.