You thought that spies were all jetting around in sweet cars, cooling their own hotness with fans made of hundred dollar bills, squinting at evil henchmen, and doing surprising roundhouse kicks while wearing tuxedo pants. Silly you. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy blasts that childish image to smithereens. Being a spy is apparently closer to working in an office filing stuff, silently deflated when your wife steps out with another man, shuffling through almost-tangible cigarette smoke. The only part other spy movies got right is the squinting part. Although Tinker Tailor delivers on intelligence and conniving schemes, it doesn't deliver the sexy.
The cast features some of the most talented men working today, and yes, Gary Oldman will probably be mentioned come awards time for his performance as George Smiley. Oldman, along with Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, John Hurt and David Dencik probably make for the most high-powered gathering of male actors since the Ocean's Eleven franchise was reborn. But again, lacking in sexy. No Zegna suits here. This is a serious film about espionage during the Cold War, dear moviegoers, that came from both a novel and a BBC miniseries. In serious movies, the audience must do some serious thinking in order to keep up. I spent an enormous amount of energy sorting through all the information crammed into each scene--it almost felt like the movie was in Chinese and I was frantically deciphering it with a pocket translator for two hours.
Tomas Alfredson, director of Let The Right One In, along with his cinematographer on both films, Hoyte Van Hoytema, bury us in another dismal European palette that acts as its own character. It's so bleak that I found myself hoping for an end to the Cold War just so we could begin globalization and send them some hot pink skinny jeans and leopard-print throw pillows. The whole movie is so civilized that I was torn between enjoying the dignity of it, versus feeling detached due to the density of cramming an entire miniseries into one movie. It's an interesting way to spend your time, just not necessarily fun.