One of many good reasons to live in Marple is the Regent, one of the last remaining independent cinemas in the North West. This picture house is a delightful anachronism with comfortable seating, low entry prices, well-behaved clientele and choc ices at the interval sold by a human in the old manner from a tray! When a popular film comes round it is often necessary to book ahead in good time to secure a seat and so it was last Saturday when the film adaptation of John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy was the main feature.
Le Carre has many devotees and the book on which this film is based (as some of you know having read a great many of his works) was one of his most popular being a central pillar of the George Smiley series. It was difficult to believe that the Alec Guinness TV version could be bettered but this film, directed by the relatively unknown Swede Tomas Alfredson, provides a very credible alternative.
This spy film is a counterpoint to the James Bond genre, it features grey men in grey suits, sitting around listening to reel to reel tapes of phone conversations, doing battle with their soviet opponents at arm’s length, treating the whole cold war as some form an intellectual exercise. So much so that the only action men in the traditional sense of being a spy, such as the Ricky Tarr character, with a penchant for killing opponents and seducing women, seem out of place.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a good film with great cinematography, casting and direction. Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch, amongst others, are very believable. I can accept though that despite it’s early critical acclaim, this is not necessarily a film that everyone will enjoy. Don’t fall asleep, lose concentration or give up early or you will never get back on terms with this film. One advantage that the Le Carre fan has is perhaps a familiarity with the jargon such as MI6 being known as “The Circus” and enemy agents regarded as “Hoods”. A synopsis of the plot would also help and can be found here in Wikipedia.
I expect that Le Carre’s book will now enjoy renewed popularity and a new generation of fans. A final thought, were the seventies really so beige and brown or have I given them a few rosier tints as they were in the high summer of my own life.