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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

How exhilarating it is not to be dumbed-down to. Many of you will not to be used to it, as the mind of the average mainstream moviegoer has become irretrievably flaccid. I’ve heard the grumbles and I was not entirely unsympathetic. I found myself connecting certain dots after scenes were long over and even as I rode home. My answer to the naysayers—buck up and enjoy the intellectual exercise. This is a puzzle worth deciphering.         And what a marvelous study of faces it is. The craggy and wizened John Hurt—the long and knowing mug of the marvelous Ciarin Hinds—Toby Jones with the puss you could never trust. But there is nothing outlandish—it’s all very subtle and close to the vest. This is a spy thriller in which a gesture could give you away. Or a phone call that’s placed just a little too soon. The only trace of Bond here is in the dryness that’s found in his signature martinis.        Welcome to 1973. Imagine: no cell phones, no computers worth a damn(I had to remind myself at one point that an open briefcase on a desk was not a laptop!), and certainly no 50 inch flat-panel LCDs hanging on office walls. The success of an opening shooting at an outdoor cafe hinges on the cradle of a good old-fashioned landline—imagine that. And after one of the most disturbing nursing images you are ever likely to see, the ball gets rolling.      Gary Oldman is an interesting actor, and I’ve always admired his flamboyance. His character acting in “Romeo is Bleeding”, “JFK”, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Hannibal”, among others, is remarkable for its bravery and audacity. But dare I say that his quieter performances in the Batman films and also what he accomplishes here are even more extraordinary. I don’t think he utters a word for the first 20 minutes of “Tinker”—even though his calm gravitas hangs firmly over the early proceedings. His stoic portrayal makes a late film clutching of a banister all the more powerful. Until then he skulks through this thing with nary the batting of an eye.      Most of the men of “Tinker” are burnt-out and worn looking. Even young, soon to be a big star(“The Dark Knight Rises”)Tom Hardy screams tired. Also, I can’t remember the last time that cigarettes were used to such great effect. The color of these walls have been painted with nicotine. Director Tomas Alfredson framed a landscape of dread with his visceral “Let the Right One In” a few seasons back. It was most likely the best vampire film in a couple of decades. He’s now created an espionage movie that takes us back in time 40 years in a welcome and entirely lived-in fashion. This is a work that I’m sure will reward multiple viewings—I can’t wait to see it again.        Grade: A-

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2 comments on “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

  1. I noticed that some reviews, especially user reviews, were decidedly lackluster, but I think you cover that in your opening. Glad to hear that it’s a worthwhile flick.

    Tinker left the local multiplex a little too quickly for me. I’m hoping it shows up at the second run theater nearby, otherwise it’s an hour drive to Ithaca or Netflix. From what I’ve seen in the trailers this is a film worth watching on the big screen so one can catch all the details and subtlety.

  2. It is dense and extremely dry. Once again, I believe audiences are SMART enough to get this—but attention spans have eroded. Most will not have patience for it, and that is a shame. I’m counting on the second view to tie up any loose ends I may have myself. ML

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