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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Review

RELEASED: 16 September 2011

For those of us drowned by this summer’s action packed blockbusters like Captain America or Super 8, the new adaptation of John le Carré’s Cold War classic novel is a breath of fresh air. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy may come as a shock to those of us fed a diet of Bond and Bourne movies, but it is in a whole other league, headed by Let The Right One In director Thomas Alfredson, whose eye for pinpoint detail, intense drama, and appreciation of the subtleties in the British Intelligence system, make this film an outstanding piece of cinema.

It is all an elaborate game of chess, which Alfredson captures perfectly. The first scene in Budapest kicks off with Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) sat in a café with a Hungarian agent. The waiter shakily serves the coffee, a drop of sweat drops on the table. A woman feeds her baby. Who will make the next move? As Prideaux gets up to walk away, he is shot and kidnapped. But who tipped the Hungarians and Russians off?

With suspicions of a mole in the Circus, the code name for MI6’s top level, Control (John Hurt) calls upon veteran ex-spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman) to investigate. The suspects: small man with big balls Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), codename Tinker; smooth and full of confidence Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), known as Tailor; still and stocky Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), called Soldier; Hungarian exile Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), stickered Poor Man; and finally, the Spy, Smiley himself. Everyone is a suspect.

Smiley has a helping hand from Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) whose attempt to steal some vital documents is a scene to make one’s heart race, dealt with by some brilliant tracking shots and close ups, every second was an uncertainty. Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), an agent suspected to have gone rogue returns with crucial information, and whilst Hardy does not reprise the suavity of his Inception character, he is excellent in his rugged, hands on approach, and the closest thing to 007 in this film.

This Circus ensemble is also a master class of British actors: Hurt is a man losing power quickly; Jones is in search of power pushing around those he sees fit; and Firth is calm and calculating. Tinker, Tailor is a film where the screenplay is subtle with its dialogue, and Alfredson plays upon the eye contact, expressions and body language of the characters to perfection. Oldman is sublime. It is the history, sins and regrets in the greyness of his attire, the pain in his eyes, hidden behind his solid spectacles that make his Smiley wonderful. Kathy Burke’s appearance as nostalgic Connie Sachs brings a small smile to our faces, as she greets Smiley with, “I don’t know about you, but I feel seriously underf***ed”.

Out of the dingy, shabby and grey atmosphere that Alfredson creates, arises a truly unique film, multi layered like an onion, and as you get closer to peeling away all the layers, the truth gets more distorted, the drama gets more intense, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy gets that much better.

(Originally published in York Vision)

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Future Flicks: Warrior

Brothers occasionally quarrel with each other, and parents act as impartial referees. But it is not often that disagreements are settled in a cage. Warrior takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level as Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play brothers who collide and settle their differences in a mixed martial arts (MMA) contest.

The story follows Tommy Conlon (Hardy) as he returns home from his time as marine. Eyeing up the jackpot at the end of a big MMA tournament, Tommy calls upon Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte), his ex-alcoholic father, to train him for the arduous journey ahead.

Meanwhile, Tommy’s brother Brendan (Edgerton) struggles to make ends meet as a public school teacher. Reviving his amateur MMA roots, Brendan returns to the ring after being suspended from his job.

The estranged brothers are forced to confront their tainted past in a bitter rivalry that ends in an explosive main event confrontation in the ring.

Director Gavin O’Connor explains the emotion behind the story: “They [Brendan and Tommy] grew up in a home where they communicated with violence. The intention was that these two brothers sort of expiate the last 14 years that they’ve been estranged and over five rounds, they deal with the past and slowly heal by beating each other up.”

Gritty and dark, the film looks set to be gripping and emotionally charged. With action, drama and a complex state of affairs, Warrior could be the film to land the knock out punch this summer season.

Warrior is scheduled for release on 9 September 2011 in the USA and 23 September 2011 in the UK.

Below is the trailer for Warrior:

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