Tag Archives: tv series

Review – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 4/5

The Bourne series, 24 and Munich, in their different ways, show audiences that the world of the secret services is a murky one, where mistrust and paranoia are rife. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TTSS) may not be a standard catch-and-shoot the bad guy thriller. Nevertheless, with a star-studded cast, TTSS is an excellent, if puzzling, portrayal of the nature of the top echelons of the secret services.

George Smiley (Gary Oldman), adopting his standard pose, explains a few things to his assistant, Peter Guillam, in one of the secret places where they do their work.

TTSS is based on the novel by John Le Carré, who worked for the best part of 20 years in MI5 and MI6; the movie is also a shortened remake of the 1979 TV series. TTSS is set in early-1970s Britain, during the Cold War. There is a mole in the ‘Circus’, the MI6 internal nickname for the highest levels of the British intelligence services. Someone is giving classified information to a Soviet agent called Polyakov (Konstantin Khabenskiy – Wanted). But who is it?

Control (John Hurt – V For Vendetta, Harry Potter VII(i) & VII(ii), Immortals) brings back his former colleague, George Smiley (Gary Oldman – Air Force One, Harry Potter III-V & VII(ii), The Dark Knight Rises), from retirement in order to discover who is behind the leak. But Smiley and his personal assistant, Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch – Atonemment, Star Trek II, The Hobbit II), must do their work in secret. This is to make sure that the other members of the ‘Circus’ – Percy Alleline (Toby Jones – Frost/Nixon, Captain America: The First Avenger, Snow White and the Huntsman), Bill Hayden (Colin Firth – The Importance of Being Earnest, The King’s Speech, Before I Go To Sleep), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds – Munich, Harry Potter VII(ii), The Debt) and Toby Esterhase (David Denick – War Horse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) – don’t find out what they’re up to. Any one of them could be the traitor.

The plot for TTSS may sound straight forward, but it is not. Rather, it is slow and very confusing. The movie is also hard to follow because it does not follow a linear timeframe. Viewers are rarely certain if they’re watching the past or the present. Moreover, the director, Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In), does not give the complete context of the story; for example, there is no hint of the five Cambridge pro-Soviet traitors that riddles the book.

Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) looking through files to find information on the mole.

This is not to say that Alfredson has made a bad film. On the contrary, the slowness of TTSS is, arguably, a reflection of the world of espionage, which Le Carré, who assisted in the movie’s production, understands so well. Seen in this light, even the many seemingly pointless short, silent scenes of Smiley going into a room or a house on his own have a purpose, since they give TTSS a greater feel for the workings of MI6.

In addition, the brilliant acting throughout the movie aids our understanding of the type of people that tend to be at the top echelons of the secret services. A lecturer of mine at university told me that Hilter’s military intelligence chief (and double-agent), Wilhelm Canaris, upheld a persona to make it seem to others that he was not on the ball. In a similar vein, all the men in the ‘Circus’ in TTSS have their manufactured character guises. No-one in the film has this more than Smiley. In the lead role, the ever-sound Gary Oldman plays Smiley exceptionally well. Whilst no James Bond, Oldman never loses his concentration as Smiley; he always remains head-down, calm and monotonous, yet perspicacious, even when there is emotion stirring within him. It is a shame for Oldman that many subtleties of Smiley’s character, from the book and the TV series, have been taken out by Alfredson.

All of the supporting cast suffer from the same problems. Everyone plays very well, but since the film is only 127 minutes (and may seem longer to those not enjoying it), there is not enough time for all of the nine main characters, including Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong – Kick-Ass, The Eagle, Zero Dark Thirty) and Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy – Layer Cake, Inception, Warrior), to have real depth. To the cast’s credit, none of them appear shallow on screen, and some of them are given the time to express themselves to a degree.

Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) as the active secret agent on the streets to help find people who may be connected to the mole.

The impressive acting is matched by the settings throughout TTSS. From the clothes; to the hairstyles; to the cars; to the fax machines (and lack of mobile phones); to the smoking, everything has the appearance of the late-1960s/early-1970s. Remarkably, nothing is out of place.

The music used throughout the film is, perhaps, the exception to this. While the music is not of its era, its strangeness, more often than not, enhances the confounding plot and the tension in some of the scenes.

TTSS is not a conventional spy/secret-agent thriller. The film moves at a measured pace and is very confusing to the extent that one may go home without having completely understood the movie. One may even need to be a fan of this niche genre to truly appreciate it. Yet, with fantastic acting – particularly from Gary Oldman – TTSS depicts its era and the underhandedness of the inner workings of the top levels of the secret services down to a tee.

PG’s Tips

Advertisements

Review – The Inbetweeners Movie (15) [2011]


Star Rating: 3.5/5

When A-Levels are finished in England, it is almost a tradition for a group of friends to relax and go on a party-fuelled holiday to Ibiza, the Costa del Sol, or other similar hotspots. (Those who don’t go on this sort of holiday very often wish they had.) The Inbetweeners Movie epitomises such a holiday in crude and hilarious fashion, as well as why one would want to go on a holiday like that once more (at least).

The crew walking down a street filled with bars and clubs, almost drooling at the abundance of scantily dressed girls.

The film continues where the television series, The Inbetweeners, left off. It centres round the four oddballs of the year, Will ‘socially awkward’ Mckenzie (Simon Bird – The Inbetweeners II), Simon ‘need to get over Carly’ Cooper (Joe Thomas – The Inbetweeners II), Neil ‘gormless’ Sutherland (Blake Harrison – The Inbetweeners II), and Jay ‘teller of tall tales’ Cartwright (James Buckley – The Inbetweeners II), wanting to do what every other ‘normal’ eighteen year old does after finishing high school. The crew decide to go on a (cool) holiday to Crete to get (in the wise words of Jay) ‘gash, booze, girls and sex’ many times over (plus enable Simon to finally get over Carly). As always though with this particular group of social misfits, the holiday does not go quite the way Jay envisages.

The plot is simple and amusing, if a little cliché at times. (The only real surprise is how much male nudity there is relative to female nudity.) At just over 90 minutes, the film is the right length for a comedy. What is most impressive is that The Inbetweeners Movie maintains its stamina right the way through, without descending into vulgarity, like the American Pie series. Often with comedies, such as Along Came Polly, Bruce Almighty and The Proposal, they lose steam and are unable to keep audiences laughing for the duration of the film. This was always going to be a challenge for The Inbetweeners Movie. How ever difficult it is to keep viewers in hysterics for twenty minutes, doing it for four and a half times as long was bound to be immensely challenging. That the film manages to do this is a credit to the script writers, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, as well as the actors. To emphasise this feat, one should watch The Simpsons Movie, which failed to transform itself successfully into a similar-length film.

The crew getting conned into going into a ‘cool’ club, by a decent-looking, skimpily dressed girl.

Unsurprisingly, the acting by the four main characters is just as brilliant and entertaining; and the dialogue is as juvenile, yet as sharp, as it was throughout the TV series. (The fact that Simon Bird and James Buckley were nominated for BAFTA-awards in 2008 for their performances as Will and Jay, respectively, in the first series speaks volumes.) Whilst they all make fun of each other, they also show how much they care for one another as true friends should. Additionally, the new characters in the movie generally add something worthwhile to the movie; especially, Will’s dad (Anthony Head – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Iron Lady) and Jane (Lydia Rose Bewley – The Inbetweeners II). Would many large women sign up for a role that was solely designed to make fun of their size? Good on Bewley for doing it with professionalism and humour!

The boys doing what all ‘normal’ people do, and drinking (God-knows what Jay put in that bowl) to excess.

The setting for the movie is as well thought out as the script. It captures the atmosphere of a holiday town just as it is in real life (almost satirically). On the one hand, there are the luxury(ish) family hotels, the sandy beaches, and the pleasant restaurants. And, on the other hand, there are the cheap and nasty, run-down hotels; grotty backstreets; and unpleasant individuals, who always seem to appear at these places. In addition, the party areas in the town are portrayed well too, with groups of scantily dressed girls walking up and down the streets; good-looking girls (also dressed skimpily) advertising for a cheap bar or club that is bereft of customers; people vomiting on the streets after a night of heavy drinking; and guys, pumped up with testosterone, making out with girls on the streets, amongst other things.

Over-all, The Inbetweeners Movie adapts remarkably from a TV show to a film. It is filled with crude and intelligent jokes that will leave viewers in hysterics for most of the film, ensuring that they forgive conveniences in the plot. The film will also make the audience wish that they could go back to being eighteen and on holiday again after exams.

PG’s Tips