Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy

Images from films linked to Tinker, Taylor, Solider, Spy

Tomas Alfredson‘s follow up to his Vampire next door Let The Right One In (2008) might be thirty years and the North Sea away from his previous film but Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy (2011) has something of the night about it.

Softly spoken spy George Smiley – a part made famous on television by Alec Guinness and deftly played here by Gary Oldman – says little but observes much moving in shadows as he watches those around him in The Circus and in the Russian secret service before making his decisive move. Smiley has no underwater car as fellow spy James Bond did in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me (dir Lewis Gilbert) but his moves are no less decisive, or deadly.

Much is made of the difference between Smiley and more cinematic spies and it does seem that the man from John le Carré novels is not only more sedate but also more versed in the machinations of his enemies. Smiley’s people – on both sides of the divide – are his to move as he sees fit. Not Bond then, not really Bond now.

Bond’s emotional side – as different to his Roger Moore eyebrow side – as seen in 2008’s Quantum of Solace is less about calculation and more about reaction. Daniel Craig‘s Bond gets punched around a lot, and drives to another exciting location to punch more, while oozing emotion. Cinematic spying tends to be about finding a plan and foiling it. Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy’s plan has already happened when the camera rolls with its protagonists charged with picking out strands.

Smiley is Machiavellian and as such has few contemporaries on the heroic side of film characters. His detachment recalls the cool passiveness of those who Bond pursues or – more so – of Phillip Vandamm in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1959 classic North by Northwest.

Vandamm – the always superb James Mason – makes the mistake of sending his agents to bump off the wrong man putting his own girlfriend in the smooth, charming way of Cary Grant‘s Roger O. Thornhill. Grant does as Grant does and Vandamm loses not only his liberty but also his lady.

Smiley loses his lady too and suffers as he does. The weakness in his facade is his devotion to cheating wife Ann, whom he pours into the emotion hidden elsewhere. His heart of stone has distinct cracks.

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