Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ciarán Hinds

The Cold War is the perfect backdrop for any spy thriller. There was so much palpable tension and corruption back then that it just makes things easy for filmmakers.  The only problem is that these films are always about the feud between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Other countries had interests in what happened back then, and they were probably getting their hands just as dirty in the espionage business.  It's refreshing when someone addresses how other countries were getting their hands dirty during that time.  Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of the acclaimed novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is just the film to capture what that era was like for Great Britain.

Control (John Hurt), the head of British Intelligence (referred to as the "Circus"), sends agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) to Hungary on a mission to identify a high-ranking mole in MI-6 who's been feeding information to the Russians.  The mission goes south and Prideaux is shot in the back while fleeing.  The international scandal caused by this mission gone awry forces Control and his close colleague George Smiley (Gary Oldman) into retirement.  Soon after, Control dies.

When Percy Alleline (Toby Jones) takes over the Circus as its new chief, his new inner circle consists of Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik).  All rose to the top by delivering strong Soviet intelligence to the agency.  When civil servant Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney) learns of allegations of a high-ranking mole in MI-6 from agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), he pulls Smiley out of retirement to hunt down the mole because he has to be someone who's currently in the Circus.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a brooding film that perfectly captures the essence of corruption in the espionage business during the Cold War era.  The movie is very dense and layered with intricate, interwoven storylines.  It's a film that requires your undivided attention.  The pace of the film is fast and unyielding.  The tension is high and unmistakable.  The violence is sudden and unpredictable.  You need to be sharp for this one.  Director Tomas Alfredson moves quickly through the material and won't wait for you to catch up.

With an all-star British cast that includes Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, and Tom Hardy, it's no surprise that there's some great acting throughout the film.  It's great to see Gary Oldman in the starring role of a film. He's someone who more often than not portrays villains or supporting characters.  We're used to see him portraying Gotham City's commissioner, Harry Potter's godfather, or a terrorist hijacking Air Force One.  It's rare to see him as the protagonist.  It's quite refreshing and long needed.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy gets a 0.03% rating.  Make no mistake about it; this is a film that will keep you on your toes.  This is a rare case where drinking is actually a disadvantage.  Keep your bar tab to a minimum, or you'll miss something.