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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I love spy movies.  I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t.  And this is John le Carré!  The spy master’s big story on the big screen.

So why did I have to drive 22 miles to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?  Seriously, this is Los Angeles and only TWO theaters want to open a spy movie with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and a host of other crack actors at the top of their game?

What’s the matter with you, America?

As I was saying, it’s a great story.  It’s multi-level chess and the stakes are the survival of Western Civilization.  Maybe you’ve heard of it.  A forced-out spy is called back to the “circus” to ferret out a mole.

A MOLE, you say?  That old trope.  That cliché.  How many of those have we seen?

Well, THIS story is what set off that trope (among others), and it’s seldom done better.  Plot-wise.

On audience connection, however, does fall short.  I mean, I adore the atmosphere.  It’s got tone and texture to burn. And a deliberate pace.   And everyone is in top form.  Tom Hardy plays a minor character but he almost steals the movie.  You have to see this.

But I also wish it were longer, like the Alec Guinness version that’s 290 minutes, so you can explore the characters more completely, because with all the chess and atmosphere, I felt like I was on the outside.  I didn’t make the emotional connection I wanted, and that’s key to any story.

The audience HAS to become emotionally connected with our main character, and George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is understandably but frustratingly hard to read.  We don’t quite feel his apprehension at snooping out his long-time companions.  We don’t really sense how his marriage (and her affair with one of the suspects) might impact his investigation.  We don’t get to know all the suspects and understand their motivations so we would mourn when the guilty are revealed.  And that made the movie seem slow.

That, besides the lame  number of openings, might keep it from winning the weekend.  And it’s set in reality, which means it doesn’t have the law-of-physics-defying feats we’ve come to expect from Mission Impossible, Bond, Bourne, and all those waif-model/action-chick imposters that’s all the rave.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a thinking man’s spy movie.  A rare bird.  An acquired taste.  I just wished it gave the audience a little more heart to its chess board.

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