Friday, December 30, 2011

Tomas Alfredson: In a Cold Blue War (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Focus Features, 2011.

Sending a good chilling jolt through the conspicuously missing (possibly assumed extinct) spy thriller, the type that incorporate a stylized game of cat and mouse only a writer of John Le Carre's breadth and vision could muster. Recent films such as Tony Scott's Spy Game and John Boorman's The Tailor of Panama infused that old feeling, but audiences seemed mostly indifferent to a film where you had to actually pay attention and think.

Tomas Alfredson's exceptional entry into the genre, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, is based upon Le Carre's sensational breakthrough novel, a tethering game of cutthroat chess. Having previously helmed the startling vampire film Let the Right One In, Alfredson proves he was no flash in the pan with a follow-up feature which is better than the first. Burning his characters in a cold blue light, and working with his d.p. Hoyte Van Hoytema, the director layers on a visually stunning, narratively hypnotic tale of old school espionage.

Gary Oldman heads the cast as Smiley, Le Carre's ubiquitous protag, an investigator for British Intelligence. As he craftily weeds out a mole within their infrastructure, we come to see a light in his eyes which is disquieting and ensures this as one of the underrated Oldman's most subtly spellbinding turns. His cast of suspects and cohorts include Colin Firth, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Kathy Burke, all brushing shoulders in Hoytema's cruelly beautiful cold war world.

The pure delight in being washed in Alfredson's visual brilliance can only be matched by the ambitious, smartly versed adaptation by screenwriters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan. Alberto Iglesias' score simmers along with the images, well used by Alfredson. The immensity and dark pleasure of following this gorgeous mystery of espionage are unrivaled in recent world cinema.

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