Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Went to see the latest film version of John le Carre's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,' on Sunday. I was quite looking forward: Gary Oldman is one of my favourite actors, the buzz was good and the source material impeccable. I came away disappointed.

Oh, all the elements were there: the cinematography was superb (I loved all those shots of documents going up and down in a lift), Oldman captured the stillness of the Smiley character brilliantly, and the Director' portrayal of a seedy, deflated 70's Britain excellent (made me quite nostalgic). The lighting was terrific too.

But ... but ... but ...

As is so often the case it was the script that let it down. I should have known what to expect when I read an interview with Gary Oldman when he said that he'd been regularly consulting with John le Carre in order to get his performance right. I am always suspicious of writers who get too closely involved with film adaptations of their work: novels and films are two completely separate mediums and in moving from one to the other the director/scriptwriter needs to be brutal with books. I think this is why the Bourne films were successful .. they were inspired by the source material, not enslaved by it.

In the case of Tinker they seem to have forgotten that what they were dealing with was, in essence, a whodunit, and to make these work the audience has to be party to the deliberations of the sleuth so they can pit their wits against him. In Tinker all the deliberation of Smiley as he tried to track down the mole were internalised and I've gotta tell you that shots of railway junctions symbolising the workings of his little grey cells don't cut it.

But where there was a paucity of information regarding Smiley's investigations, we were bombarded with a mass of irrelevant noise about characters (who cared that Benedict Cumberbatch's was homosexual; it had no relevance to the story); the Cold War (it doesn't help to be sitting next to Nelli as she mutters in your ear, enumerating the gaffs made regarding the Russians); and the protagonists' back-stories (all that angst by Tom Hardy's character about 'Irina' was a total waste of screen time). And what all this noise did was derive the major players a chance to establish their characters in any meaningful way: at the end of the film the only ones we could name were Smiley, 'C' (John Hurt so far over the top that he had sprouted wings) and er, that's it.

The girls pronounced themselves 'baffled'. I have to agree: if you haven't read the book, don't bother.

My rating: 6/10 (and Gary Oldman earned 3 of those!)

Oddly though

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