Sunday, 20 November 2011

Film #64 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

In which Tomas ‘Let The Right One In’ Alfredson directs his first English-language feature, an ambitious adaptation of John Le Carré’s cold-war espionage potboiler (having also been previously adapted as a British TV mini-series, with Alec Guinness in the lead role).

So, the good points – the film looks extraordinary, the period detail is compelling and fascinating in its own right and all is beautifully shot throughout. The acting, too, is superb, with Gary Oldman in particular giving a performance of genuine depth and subtlety. Toby Jones also deserves a mention, adding ‘jobsworthy Edinburgh lawyer’ to his formidable range of accents.

The downside – it’s just too damned complicated. Le Carré is famous for his labyrinthine plotting and it just can’t be satisfactorily squeezed into two (long) hours of brown walls, grey suits and a bewilderingly large cast of characters. I can’t help but feel that Alfredson has taken a very detailed and plot-driven story and tried to turn it into an atmospheric character piece – and he just hasn’t quite pulled it off. Contrast with, say, The Lives of Others, a film which shares similarities in tone and subject matter, but is far more successful in making you give a damn about the protagonists.