You know how Christmas movies are frequently dumb, or sappy? Well I just happened to see a movie that’s neither – although to be fair, it’s not a Christmas movie either. But since it is Christmastime, it’s something you could go see if you want a fun brainteaser before all the egg nog and fruit cake make your brain feel jellified.
It’s called Tinker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy and by no means should you have anything to drink (or anything that a doctor might offer you after root canal) before you see it. In fact, about halfway through I wished I had gotten a better night’s sleep so I could more readily absorb all the twisty turny info that gets thrown at you by Britain’s finest actors. And it really is a spy yarn of the first order (based on true stories about British agents who really were secretly spying for the Russians during the Cold War). It takes place during the 1970s, and there’s nary a cell phone or even a computer in sight. Someone uses teletype and of course everything’s in code.
The book itself – by a guy named John LeCarre – came out in 1974 and I distinctly remember two or three years later buying it at one of our school booksales because it looked interesting and very grown-up sitting in my bookbag. Even then I was fascinated by spies. I also remember by the time I got the book home and identified the page length, it was immediately forgotten; written off as a very tough and impossibly long read.
Little did I know that nearly forty years later they’d make it into a first-rate spy thriller that’ll keep you guessing. Gary Oldman stars as the Main (and Hero) Spy who sets out to uncover a double agent (or Mole) within the ranks of British intelligence. It could be Toby Jones, or Colin Firth, or John Hurt or any one of Britain’s most accomplished thespians who must’ve had a blast making this very complicated film. Tom Hardy, so great in Inception and about to explode as Batman’s nemesis in The Dark Knight Rises is also very good here. Actually, there are no bad apples in the bunch, and the thing takes you on a tricky journey that involves flashbacks and double crosses and all kinds of roadbumps. At one point I could feel my heart beating vigorously just because of the music alone. Expect Gary Oldman to get noticed big time here, and the movie will undoubtedly get lots of accolades for the way it sounds and looks. I could have done with better wigs on a few of the bald characters, but that’s always one of my pet issues. They manage to make everything else so top notch nowadays – why can’t they get wigs and old people’s makeup down pat too?
So if you’re looking for a fun thriller that’ll challenge how you think and what you can piece together over two hours, check out Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, it’s a great story that makes for an eminently satisfying movie. The movie’s also completely gorgeous, and it will make you want to visit murky, rainy London in a khaki raincoat and sip tea and belt scotch immediately.
Just don’t belt it while you’re watching because you’ll never be able to follow the plot.
1. The Good Shepherd
2. The Bourne Identity
3. Casino Royale
4. The Hunt For Red October