Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

For a Spy Thriller, Not Many Thrills

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

For a Spy Thriller, Not Many Thrills

Article excerpt

Like its main character, George Smiley, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" plays its cards very close to its vest -- too close, in fact. The result is a nearly affectless espionage tale, a Cold War spy thriller that's chilly and boasts few thrills.Smiley is refreshingly different from the standard cinematic spy. He's in late middle age, doesn't move in very much of a hurry, eschews guns (most of the time) and has a personality so dry, it's no surprise that his wife, Anne, has left him. Wearing huge owlish eyeglasses and an unctuous mien, Gary Oldman as Smiley resembles a tobacco store clerk more than he does James Bond."Tinker" is based on the 1974 novel by John le Carre, unread by me, which was turned into a seven-part BBC miniseries in 1979, with Alec Guinness playing Smiley. With its dense plot and confusing maze of characters -- I was still struggling to keep the names straight by the end -- the story might have been better suited to the episodic rhythms of television than a two-hour movie.The film begins with the fall of the leader of British Secret Intelligence Services, known only as Control (John Hurt). He had sent one of his top agents, Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong), to Hungary to learn the identity of a double agent at the very top of their leadership. The mission goes awry, Prideaux is shot, and Control and Smiley, his right-hand man, are brought down in the ensuing scandal.But was the theory of a mole really nonsense? Suffering through a lonely forced retirement, Smiley is given a shot at redemption when the civilian leadership appoints him to learn the truth. This proves quite a challenge, since the four men Control suspected now run "the Circus," as the members of the intelligence agency refer to themselves.They are: Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds). …

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