Bill Cunningham’s Film of the Week is the superb, slow burning spy thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:
This week I am in the murky world of British Intelligence Services during the Cold War in the 1970’s for, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, adapted from the book by John Le Carre. This is not the world of 007, but of a sort of gentlemen’s club where a veneer of respectability covered a realm of suspicion and treachery.
In 1979 the BBC produced a very successful series with Sir Alec Guinness as the disenchanted espionage agent George Smiley and it is Gary Oldman who was brave enough to follow in his footsteps. Despite his name, George never smiles but Oldman’s body language and eyes betray a penetrating assessment of every situation. His performance is mesmerizing.
In this grey world of desk bound acolytes, dark deeds are afoot. There is a Soviet mole at work and Smiley is engaged by the Government civil-servant responsible for intelligence to investigate and find the traitor. This sets in motion a labyrinthine plot using flashbacks to reveal how the ‘mole’ could be any one of four of George’s former colleagues nicknamed after the famous rhyme. The supporting cast is superb with John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Kathy Burke in a brilliant cameo as a former analyst who got too close to the truth.
Directed by Thomas Alfredson who made ‘Let the Right One In’, this is what you would call a slow burn film that allows time and space to reveal the layers of duplicity and ruthlessness of the world of spies. There are no fast cars and globe- trotting Bond style, but a growing tension as Smiley peels back the layers of betrayal to finally expose the truth. It is on BBC I-Player as well as on Amazon Prime.