Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Squalor: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The mystery of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's slug-paced timed release has been solved: John La Carre's thriller is an affair of art direction, a period piece that plays out in smoky rooms and drab suits, it's not the espionage tale its cut to appear as in the trailers. Everything about it feels condensed and phony, taking itself more seriously than it should, as though the Cold War were still going on and the stakes are still high. Gary Oldman, in a performance touted as revelatory, returns to his Dracula days and moves like a waxy vampire entombed in his mackintosh. His head barely moves, his every word is an act of precision, his hair is sculpted in a pale hump.  We expect him to either fall dead asleep or produce a razor blade and, in slow motion, lick it as he flips through files, staring into space as his active brain pieces together the story we've barely been told.  The basics are simple: we're reminded time and again that there's a mole right at the top of British intelligence.  Someone is a Soviet double agent, and our options are few.  From his position on the outside, Smiley (Oldman) must connect the dots before more secrets are leaked. Of course, these men aren't James Bond or Jason Bourne, they're square desk jockeys, bureaucratic pencil pushers who spend more time closed in a room than out in the field.
Thus, our adventures are limited, lived vicariously through outside parties in cutaways and subplots that are nothing if not confusing.  In Tinker Tailor, everyone appears to be feeling something, but the film never reveals quite what those things are.  Tinker Tailor is a complicated story. Once upon a time it was made into a BBC miniseries that went on hours past the runtime here. What this adaptation fails to do is compress the complications in a way that feels whole.  What is likely quite reasonable here becomes utterly convoluted, and the casting seems to confirm any suspicions we have at the start. Complicated background stories are dropped for nearly every character, and while their emotions read on their faces (they're all accomplished actors), we learn about as much as could be gleaned from a simple emoticon. To call anyone 'major' or 'minor' here would simply be a mincing of words.  Atmosphere is the star here.  Everyone else is bone dry.  Even the climax, when it occurs, feels underwhelming.
There isn't much else for me to say.  I'm afraid I can't write intelligibly on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  In a rare instance, I simply don't care to.  This happens sometimes.  This week it happened twice.  I saw this movie, then I read Richard Ford's The Sportswriter.  Both seem to be made for a certain type of middle aged dude and apart from style and moments of perception, offer little that speaks directly to me.   Tinker Tailor certainly isn't a bad film.  It has style to spare, moments of greatness, and will be loved intensely by some. Yet, for what it's worth, I was simply bored in a way I struggle to put into words.  Everything happened, but none of the on-screen events were particularly riveting.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...