Spy thrillers are generally sleek and seductive. They have the cold gleam of gunmetal with the occasional sparkle of a diamond-studded Rolex. The spy thriller is a debonair gentleman clad in the perfect black tuxedo.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a different kind of spy movie altogether. Instead of a tuxedo, think an aged duffel coat, musty with the thick scent of winter rain. There’s no seduction or sleekness to the men that populate this world. All the movie star charm has bled from Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Ciarán Hinds. They’re old and faded; deep lines in their faces and the grey hairs on their heads.
Retired MI6 agent George Smiley (Oldman) searches for the double agent within British intelligence, and there’s a dizzying list of suspects and evidence for him to filter through. Director Tomas Alfredson navigates the details of an intricate espionage mystery with a dexterous confidence. He’s more interested in capturing a mood of resignation, of a country in decline, than spelling out the details of Smiley’s investigation. This leaves Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with a density that’s hard to unravel after one viewing, but an atmosphere of sombre stoicism that will surely reward rewatching.