Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – A Splendid Movie Review


This review will not reveal significant plot details.  For example, I will not outline the entire plot.  Stuff like that. You have been warned.

By the way, that’s not a total lie.  I won’t be addressing one single aspect of the plot in this review, nor could I, as the plot was extraordinarily dense and virtually impossible to understand.

“TInker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” – I think I was disappointed.  I feel like I’m disappointed, so I guess you could say I’m disappointed.  Put me down as “mildly disappointed”.  Before I go on, let it be known that I’m about to make a comparison between sports and art.  I always find that to be a dangerous road since sports and art are consumed differently. During the course of a sporting event, the players determine who wins. I watch, hope something amazing happens, but in the end, the players determine who the winner is. In the arts, I determine who wins. Despite winning Best Picture, Million Dollar Baby lost with me. It’s not my thing to watch a thoroughly depressing story. Likewise, I HATED the ludicrous Indy 4. Sure, it “won” by getting me to buy a ticket, but I will never, EVER buy a copy of my own. So there, sports and art are consumed differently. The reason I choose to make the comparison in this case is because we make the decision to consume both commodities in the same way. We take what we know and make the call.  In basketball, I know that I’m getting, for example, a lot of rebounds from Kevin Love tonight. Or a couple big slam-dunks from Blake Griffin. Or, I know that, right now, the Miami Heat will probably win by around 11 points. If any of those situations sounds like something I’d like, I tune in. And isn’t that the point of reading a review? Aren’t you trying to decide whether to “tune-in” or not? I hardly ever watch a movie and THEN go see what people say about it. Instead, I read what they say and then make the decision. That’s what this whole comparison is about – helping you decide whether to watch the movie or not.

Having said ALL of that…..

This movie has qualities similar to a basketball game in which neither team has anything at stake; if you’re a basketball junkie, or if you support one of the teams, there might be something to watch for (a good pass here, a nice move there, outrageously meaningless hustle plays by a player vying for a contract).  However, for the majority of the basketball watching community, those games are rarely worth watching, especially if there is a better game on with playoff implications and star players.  The boring basketball game with nothing at stake is its own genre, appreciated by a small minority of the population.  Incidentally, I found TTSS to be a boring movie in which, in the end, nothing was at stake.  I don’t see myself ever watching this movie again.  I can see myself sitting back and enjoying my Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol blu-ray time and time again, but I cannot imagine a situation in which I would ever watch this movie in my own home.  But, you might be the type of person who would like the movie, and if you think you might be, here are some questions you should ask yourself to make sure:

Do I like spy movies?

Am I a fan of Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, or John Hurt enough to see a movie JUST to witness their performance?

Do I even know who Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, or John Hurt are?

Do I like movies with action?

If I answered “yes” to the above question, am I cool with watching a movie with zero action?

Can I understand mumbling British actors?

Do I typically watch movies with the subtitles on?

Have I read the book Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and, if so, do I care to see it interpreted on the big screen?

Do I mind soundtracks with little-to-no memorable moments?

Did I have no problems keeping up with the stories of Layer Cake, Snatch, or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels?

Did I have a problem keeping up with Mission Impossible 1?

Do I like pensive moments where nothing happens and its possible I will nod off or slip into a coma due to severe lack of brain stimulation?

Am I terrible with names?

Uhh, so, if you answered yes or no to the right combination of those questions, then you should go see the movie.  If you answered yes/no to the WRONG combination, stay home.  A few followups:

1. Colin Firth – He won that Academy Award for King’s Speech, but then again, what halfway competent actor portraying someone with an impediment DOESN’T win an Academy Award?  He was good, and I love him as an actor, but his co-star, Geoffrey Rush, gave the better performance.  I remember little of Firth’s performance, but I remember much about Rush’s.  Anyway, in TTSS, Colin was enjoyable except for his mumbling.  He mumbles!  If you have a hard time understanding British actors, get ready to not catch anything Firth says.

2. Gary Oldman – He’s so pensive in this movie.  Apparently, in the book his character is taciturn, but he could have been a little more enjoyably laconic.  He was too reticent for my taste.  Also, I wanted a reason to like him beyond “he’s the hero because he’s the hero”.  Its like someone being a leader via title versus force of personality – when the chips are down, the titular guy will be discarded.  In the same way, Gary’s character is one for the junk heap.  Not his performance, mind you, but the character.  For that I blame the writers.  On Oldman: I am routinely impressed by the guy.  Apparently he tries to adopt a different accent for every movie.  He sounds great in this one, light years away from Commissioner Gordon.  I think if he could’ve just had one drug-dropping moment like his character in The Professional, it would have been awesome.  That move where he throws his head back and pops the drug between his teeth……insanely creepy and crazy and great.  BTW, drugs are bad.

3. Tom Hardy – I caught myself thinking he reminded me of Harrison Ford.  Like, he just seems like a rough, tough guy who is believable in his role as a young, aggressive field guy.  I can’t wait to see him in The Dark Knight Rises.  I thought he was great in Inception, too.  Hopefully he doesn’t completely lose the ability to act competently in his later years as Harrison has.  Too bad about that b/c if Harrison could still act, I would own Indy 4 today.  Just kidding hahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahaha I would never own that abomination of a trainwreck of an atrocity of a crime against humanity in the form of a movie!!!!

4. Totally random note about sports.  Even though sports are numbers-driven, its the rare cases when players/teams transcend their stats in either direction that are so captivating.  Like the 7-seconds or less Phoenix Suns.  Super fun!  Never won it all, had some success, super memorable, and a team I watched probably more than any other back in the mid-2000’s.  Bill Simmons of Espn.com identifies them as being “critically acclaimed” although, really, they were probably more emotionally acclaimed, but whatever.  Watching them was like watching performance art, mostly because Steve Nash was the greatest.  The same “transcendent” argument can be made for Tim Tebow.  He’s a complete enigma.  Is he going to play atrociously or brilliantly?  Who knows?  That’s the beauty – either way, he’s an entertaining guy to watch because he’s unpredictable.  He was the most-tweeted-about person in Twitter history following the Broncos’ epic OT victory last Sunday, and his jersey is the 2nd best-selling jersey in all the NFL despite his being an extremely mediocre quarterback.  (Number 1? Aaron Rogers, arguably the most skilled QB playing today, and leader of the team with arguably the most rabid fan base in the entire league, the Green Bay Packers.)  What does all that mean?  I don’t know, but I like Tebow and I liked the Suns a lot, so I’m glad I wrote this paragraph extolling them, like that makes my feelings any more official.

It only seems appropriate to conclude this review/meandering Pulitzer-worthy work with my favorite quote from TTSS, an exchange between Firth’s and Oldman’s characters:

Firth: “al;knaoisdnvknalkaslidhlknv (undecipherable speaking)”

Oldman: (looking on, pensive) “Wel-“zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

3 thoughts on “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – A Splendid Movie Review

  1. Oh my goodness!!! I laughed until I nearly cried! This review was sooooo funny! Almost makes me want to rent the movie, put the subtitles on of course, and enjoy the “show!” Grant, please keep up the great work reviewing movies. I can’t wait ’til you review another one!

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