Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a Worthy Remake Filled With Lonely Characters

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a Worthy Remake Filled With Lonely Characters

by Tony Dayoub

The tall, athletic man introduced earlier in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as British Intelligence officer Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) walks into a class room and begins to write his name on the chalkboard. Only he does not write the name we’ve come to know him by. The typically garrulous young males attending the tony prep school remain blissfully unaware of their new teacher’s identity as he starts handing out the class assignment. But the viewer is all too keenly aware of who Prideaux is if only for the fact that we saw him shot in the back at the start of Tomas Alfredson’s film adaptation of the John le CarrĂ© novel. Is this a flashback? Or did Prideaux somehow survive the shooting? Prideaux’s mild demeanor belies his efficiency, a fact his students become aware of when a bird trapped in the chimney suddenly flies into the classroom in confusion. Prideaux rapidly pulls out a club from his desk drawer and swats the bird down to the ground where it continues to squeal in pain. As Alfredson directs the camera to capture the students’ horrified reaction, the sound of Prideaux beating the bird to death comes from off-screen...



Aden Jordan said...

Great, descriptive review. The source material is very strong for a paperback espionage thriller. I'm seeing the film tonight, and am very excited for it.

Tony Dayoub said...

So, now that you saw it, what'd you think?

Aden Jordan said...

"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is a first rate film and a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Le Carre's book. I had thought that the director or screenwriters would have tried to make the story less convoluted and use more exposition to explain 'who is who' to the audience. To the filmmaker's credit, 'Tinker Tailor' is just as complicated and reliant on nonlinear narrative as the book.

The cast is universally solid, and you're spot on by mentioning that this is another change of pace for Oldman. If there was a false note in the cast, I didn't see it. This might even be the best cast of character actors/supporting actors I saw in the theaters this year.

My only complaint is this: the book's sole source of subtle humor is the way in which other characters become agitated by the seemingly arbitrariness of the questions Smiley asks them to gather information and make his deductions. He asks questions along the lines of 'And what shoes were you wearing?' that don't seem germane to anything, the questioned character becomes angry, and then Smiley immediately makes a mental link between his line of query and why something seemingly unimportant points to something relevant in his quest for the truth. It's a funny, clever motif which also points to the way that Smiley is so smart and chooses his words so carefully that he sees situations and people differently than everyone around him. It's something I wish the film had included. My guess is that in today's film market where 'Sherlock Holmes' or 'House' can do the same thing in more outrageous and implausible ways, 'Tinker Tailor' opted for the more intelligent and believable route.

You mentioned in your review the ways in which the film's subplots and characters mirror and parallel each other. Do you think that points to a bigger theme? Do you get the impression that the film even has one?