The acting is impeccable. Gary Oldman completely disappears into the
role of Smiley; the voice, the walk, the tempo are all a unique
creation, a man who's strength comes from quiet, from watching, from
thinking, not from action. Rarely have we ever seen a movie hero this
passive. But this man is very actively passive. He may not move
physically, but his mind is racing like a computer. And Oldman is
surrounded by a top flight cast; Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt,
Ciaran Hinds, Benedict Cumberpatch, etc.
The film is very well shot, delicately creating a dour world of beige
and brown mazes.
But in distilling a story this complex down to two hours, something got
a little lost for me. Smiley has to figure out who the mole in the
British secret service is. But with this much plot, and this little
time, we don't really get to know the suspects. So we watch and are
(intentionally) confused, and then answers start to emerge, and it's
all never less than interesting. But somehow it never crosses over into
the emotional or unshakably memorable either.
I loved Alfredson's 'Let the Right One In' for it's uncanny combination
of atmosphere, creepiness, intelligence and heart. For me, 'Tinker,
Tailor..." has the first three, but lacks the last. Some of that is the
nature of LaCarre's work. But somehow I remember more moments, and more
feeling from the now 30+ year old TV adaptation, even though it didn't come
close to this new version's rich sense of style. But by not having to rush
through a story this dense, there was room to really feel and experience it,
instead of just working to keep up with it.
But all that said, this is a refreshingly smart, adult, well-made and
challenging film in a world with far too few.