Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is quiet, and moves at a pace that could be described as "glacial," but is a smart and entertaining movie that rewards the patience of its audience.
The film, based on the novel of the same name by John le Carre, takes place at the height of the Cold War, and follows a mole hunt at the top of the British secret service. Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, a "retired" (read: forced out) intelligence analyst brought back to suss out a double agent.
Smiley must determine who among the upper echelon of the "circus" (the film's nickname for British intelligence) is betraying his country to Russia, or if the whole idea of a "mole" was simply part of the paranoia of former spymaster "Control."
Oldman gives a great, if minimalist, performance as Smiley. Smiley's no James Bond or Ethan Hunt — he doesn't engage in protracted gunfights, chase cars or seduce beautiful women. He's a thinker, quietly approaching problems while wasting neither movements nor words. Oldman's work here is restrained, but powerful.
The rest of the characters are admirably played by character actors, including John Hurt, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds and Colin Firth. Tom Hardy continues his string of good work as the spy that sets the whole thing in motion, all while pining for the woman turned (Svetlana Khodchenkova).
This is a remarkably quiet film — again, those interested in an action romp would be best served looking elsewhere — and there's a lot of dead space here. This is intentional, though, as the bits of action and violence are made all the more shocking. Smiley is unraveling a mystery, and he does so with a lot of legwork and a good degree of savvy.
If you can handle a spy movie with any death-defying stunts, and can appreciate the tension built by a slow-moving film, Tinker Tailor is for you. For my part, it worked very well.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is rated R.