Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -3

Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumerbatch, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones. Based on John le Carreís spy thriller. Directed by Tomas Alfredson.

FILM SYNOPSIS: During the Cold War, veteran intelligence officer George Smiley is recalled from retirement when there are signs that one of the top-ranking officers of the British Secret Intelligence Service is a Soviet mole. It's 1973 and Control (JOHN HURT) is in charge of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. "The Circus." Believing there's a mole in their operation, Control sends agent Jim Prideaux (MARK STRONG) to Hungary for information on who that might be.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Okay, Iíll admit it. When it comes to a lot of things, Iím dumber than a bagful of hammers. But having been a film buff all my life and a professional reviewer for 24 years, Iím usually able to follow the premise of a film plot. But I have no idea what is going on in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Good espionage thrillers are generally complex in structure and sometimes it takes a second viewing to catch on. The two hours and eight minutes of deadpan abstractness, violent tension, and humorous characters who seem devoid of human feelings will no doubt detour me from a second viewing.

Whatever the significance of the secret files is, itís never made clear, nor does it ever become important to us. The files are this movieís McGuffin. But if the secret files are not essential to furthering of the story, then whatís the filmís ultimate purpose? Surely itís not the message that spy work is all bureaucracy except for when you are assigned to murder other operatives. Is it the insular characters? Theyíre hard to like, impossible to relate to. Each of the leads walks around as if in a zombie-like trance. Hey, we already know when you work for the government, you get that way.

In fairness to the filmmakers, the story is meant to be an intellectual puzzle, its non-linear plot built on countless deceptions. But the clever part got past me. I simply saw it as slow paced, and excessive in its moody gloom and cynical pretense.

Each of the following DVD Alternatives was made during an era when filmmakers had to be careful about the content:

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Richard Burton plays a middle-aged British spy, about to retire, is given one last assignment to infiltrate East Germany and uncover information about a former colleague suspected of having become a communist traitor.

Our Man in Havana. A British shopkeeper, living in Havana, is offered a lucrative deal by British Intelligence to provide them with spy information, but ends up getting in over his head. Alec Guinness, Maureen OíHara, Noel Coward.

The Man Who Never Was. Clifton Webb stars as Montagu, a lieutenant commander in the British Navy during World War II, who becomes involved in a tricky scheme to fool the Nazis. It entails locating a corpse, establishing an identity for it as an intelligence officer called Major Martin, and having the body float in the water just off the coast of Spain, with military identification and letters in its pockets that describe a forthcoming invasion of Greece by the British. That invasion, of course, is entirely fictitious, designed to distract the Nazis from picking up on the Britons' plans to invade Sicily. The scheme is complicated by a young woman named Lucy Sherwood (Gloria Grahame), and Patrick O'Reilly (Stephen Boyd), a German espionage agent.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Four or five obscenities; a few minor expletives.

Profanity: Two misuses of Christís name.

Violence: Several killings; dead body with flies swarming around his cut throat; dead body in blood-soaked bathtub. Blood from the head of a dead gunshot victim.

Sex: Two sex scenes, one becoming graphic.

Nudity: Brief nudity.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Drinking & smoking throughout.

Other: None

Running Time: 128 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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