Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violence, some sexuality/nudity, and language
Profanity:Some strong and crude language
Nudity/Sex:Sexual references and situations, nudity
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, smoking
Violence/Scariness:Violence including guns and torture, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:December 9, 2011
DVD Release Date:March 20, 2012

There are spy stories with glamor and chases and explosions and answers.  And there are spy stories like this one, murky, gritty, grubby, complicated.  The brilliant BBC miniseries version of the the book by John le Carre opened with the grim-looking Russian matryoshka nested dolls, a perfect image for this Cold War era story of a traitor at the heart of British intelligence.  The original miniseries, with Alec Guinness as the exiled spy called back in to find the mole was known for being both superbly made and almost impenetrable.  I watched it four times before I felt confident that I had some idea of what was going on.  And now it has been remade in a fraction of the running time.  Its production design is brilliantly done and there are moments of extraordinary power and artistry but it is even harder to follow.  Yes, the difficulty is part of the point.  While one of the reasons we love movies and indeed stories of all kinds is that they make sense of a complicated and ambiguous world, and you can even make sense by pointing out the complicated and ambiguous nature of things, this movie does not have the time or the scope to tell this story effectively and suffers by comparison with the superior earlier version.

Gary Oldman plays the Guinness role of the ironically named George Smiley.  He is a spy who was once close to “Control” (John Hurt), the head of British Intelligence, officially known as MI6 but referred to by everyone as “the Circus.”  Smiley was pushed out of the Circus, which is why when one of their agents is double-crossed, shot, captured, and tortured, that someone in the top levels is giving secrets to the Soviets, Smiley is the only senior spy who is not a suspect, and thus the only one who can investigate.  Control tells him it is one of five men, and he assigns code names to them based on the old nursery rhyme: tinker, tailor, soldier, poorman, and beggarman.  Smiley is helped by a young agent named Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a rogue agent named Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), as well as a visit to a retired MI6 head of research (Kathy Burke in the film’s best performance).

But nothing is as straightforward as that paragraph suggests.  Everything is codes within codes and what is not said or shown is more important than what is. The atmosphere is the most important character in the film.  The production design by Maria Djurkovic powerfully evokes the era as Britain adjusts to post-WWII economic struggles and its rapidly shrinking role in international affairs with its dingy institutional spaces and ironically child-like vocabulary. The scenes set at an office Christmas party are dead-on and deadly, the mirthless drinking and sad little decorations.  The contrast between the smallness of that world and the enormity of the end-of-the-world issues in those early days of WMDs is conveyed better by a hand-lettered sign in a grimy office than by the the big reveal about who has been providing secrets instead of gathering them.

Parents should know that this film includes violence with shooting and torture, characters who are injured and killed, sexual references and situations with nudity, and strong language.

Family discussion: Read about the real-life “Cambridge Five” scandal that inspired this film.  What do we learn from the Christmas party scenes?  From the use of a nursery rhyme as code?

If you like this, try: the BBC miniseries with Alec Guinness and its sequel and Breach, about a real-life US mole



Previous Posts

How Did Ca Plane Pour Moi End Up in So Many Movies?
How did a 1977 song in French by the Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand become a go-to for 21st century American movie soundtracks, from big studio films to quirky indies? "Ça Plane Pour Moi" has appeared in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and last week's "We'll Never Have Paris," from

posted 3:40:03pm Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

The Kitten Bowl 2015: You Can Win A Set of Kitten Cards
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5sO4NoaF89Y?rel=0" frameborder="0"] The most-anticipated sporting event of the weekend -- in some circles anyway, is this year's Kitten Bowl, Su-Purr Sunday, February 1 (12/11c) only on Hallmark Channel! [caption id="attachment_3263

posted 12:00:45pm Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Una Gran Noticia! Disney's First Latina Princess
The Disney princesses have their first Latina member! Princess Elena of Avalor will make her debut in the Disney Channel series "Sofia the First" before starring in her own series on the Disney channel.

posted 9:19:37am Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Black or White
Writer-director Mike Binder sure likes to get Kevin Costner drunk. As in his uneven but impressive "The Upside of Anger," Binder once again has Costner playing a man who is a little lost and usually

posted 5:58:45pm Jan. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Black Sea
Two comments made by characters in this film summarize what it is that makes submarine stories so instantly compelling. "Outside is just dark, cold, and death," says one. "We all live together or

posted 3:51:06pm Jan. 29, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.