The movie, based on some novel that I now want to read, is about Cold War-era espionage. Oldman is a retired agent brought back into the game to uncover a high-level double agent in MI6's midst. Somebody's a-workin for the Russians, and it's up to Gary to sort things out. "Why me?" he would ask in an inferior screenplay. "Because you're the best there is," he'd be answered. The script is too good for lines like that, but the fundamentals are true. The assignment is a tall order though, as Gary must keep his mission secretive, trust nobody, and try to avoid getting dead.
The supporting cast is a veritable Who's Whom of excellent British actors. We have John Hurt as the grizzled old coach of the spy squad (he can't be the mole - too obvious); Colin Firth as a shrewd poindexter, not to be underestimated; Tom Hardy as an old associate of Gary's, still active in the field (keep your eye on him, Oldman - he's hiding something); Toby Jones, whose ugly mug I'd trust over a pretty one like Hardy's; Stephen Graham makes an appearance to tear shit up (I'll root for him no matter what because he's Al Capone); Ciaran Hinds, as always, delivers his sauce in his own peculiar way (you'd be a damn fool to trust Hinds, but that's why I do); even Stephen Rea shows up to play a shadowy weirdo! And then there's Mark Strong, who seems to have found a career that keeps on giving by playing insane, murderous dicks. This film is no exception. With this pack of hounds behind Alpha Dog Oldman, the scenes crackle and bang. The acting is superb and, of course, the diction is flawless. Hapless idiots in the theater may whisper to their friends to keep track of what's going on, but never because an actor is mumbling.
I don't know much about this Tomas Alfredson character. He's a Swede who directed the very well-reviewed Let The Right One In. I didn't see it, but I did catch the American remake and it wasn't half bad. I therefore deduce that Alfredson is a skilled director with a great visual style. He's a northman, and knows how effective shadow and darkness are on film. That's part of what makes TTSS so great: it looks and feels like the real world. No super-saturated color, no quick-cut bullshit editing. Plus, there's no better era to set an espionage movie than the 1970s, when wires were actual wires, and tapes had to be played back on huge reels that crackled and fuzzed. I'm over watching actors fake-type sloppily fast on keyboards while their computers make bleeps and alerts and flash graphics in ways that no computer in the world has ever behaved. An urgent communique arriving via electric typewriter is just better drama.
So sprint -- don't jog -- to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Leave your cell phone at home, have some balls, and get on board. It's an instant classic, an early Oscar contender (though who gives a shit anymore?), and a tour de force performance from the Oldriginal G.
Dorien Sez: A
Watch the Trailer: