Star rating – 9/10
This film is arguably the first of the autumn Oscar juggernauts rolling into the darkening evenings for our delectation. And on paper it’s going to be a hard act to beat – an adaptation of great John le Carré’s best selling novel; following in the wake of the smash hit BBC TV adaptation starring Alec Guinness which people of a certain age will remember very fondly; an absolutely stellar cast; and an already proven talented and creative directive director in Tomas Alfredson of vampire indi hit ‘Let the Right One In’. The only question really is – does it live up to all the hype?
Gary Oldman is pitch perfect as the controlled and understated George Smiley, who is called back in secret to the murky world of MI6 from recent retirement to help to uncover a Soviet mole in the inner circus. Colin Firth; Ciaran Hinds; Tony Jones; and David Dencik play the four agents who are under suspicion in the grimy brown backwash of 1970’s London. Mark Strong also features as a fellow MI6 member who is sent to Hungary and seemingly assassinated at the start of the action. Or maybe not.
The era is recreated very effectively, with one mirror irritation – the very dodgy wigs. I wish they could have got them to look just a little more realistic. Le Carré’s complex plot is well boiled down into a feature length treat which is relatively easy to follow – if you pay attention. There is not the luxury here of letting some things develop slowly over a five hour TV series, but all the essential elements of the plot seem to have been included.
Tom Hardy is also great as Ricki Tarr, who is determined to break away from the moral depravity of a secret agent’s life. Benedict Cumberbatch also gives good support as the man Smiley trusts as the aide to his secret investigation. It’s interesting in these times to remember how all pervading the Cold War really was. This is a very well crafted piece all round to be fair, and deserved of much praise, but it does not quite reach the dizzy heights that some reviewers are perching it on. Great film, shame about the wigs.