Phony Oscar bait. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an interminably talky John le Carre adaptation of bloodless spy games. Gary Oldman is the veteran of the British Secret Service who is the only one that can be trusted – he spends the entire movie smoking out the Russian mole. Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Toby Jones and Tom Hardy are among the chief suspects, for you more or less want to trust old windbag John Hurt. As directed by Tomas Alfredson (of the much better “Let the Right One In”), the drama is as hazy as its images. Brace yourself for a morass of “information” that amounts to nothing much more than deception played unto the audience. Some people actually like this kind of movie because they can claim being smart if they were able to follow it.
Before you lose your head from all the red herrings and covert talk, consider that the found “mole” at the end could have been written to be anybody – it’s all arbitrary selection and not a logical continuation of story (other subplots are pointless). Or you differ in that assessment. So what? These actors deliver their trademark world-weary faces, but these characters have no inner lives when it comes down to it. Not even an inner spiritual conflict. Nothing defines any of the characters except by their speech demeanor, take Firth’s impish sly British colloquialism for instance. None of these guys have families, and so they have nothing at stake except their oath to Q-U-E-E-N & C-O-U-N-T-RY. Oldman is so doleful that he actually has an intriguing sad history… that is unfortunately left vague.
One lugubrious set piece after another commences, but if there’s one location that’s neat it is the orange egg-crate soundproof meeting room where these spies meet for debriefing. But “Tinker Tailor” is a pretentious prestige piece that is to an honest man an entertainment black hole. “Syriana” and “Body of Lies” were other nebulous quagmires that teased profundity but said nothing. Your head comes out in a fog.
127 Minutes. Rated R.
SUSPENSE DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / WINTER TALE
Film Cousins: “Spy Game” (2001); “Syriana” (2005); “Body of Lies” (2008); “The Debt” (2011).