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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Year: 2011
Production Co: Studio Canal
Studio: Focus Features
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer: Bridget O'Connor/Peter Straughan/John le Carré
Cast: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Cirian Hinds, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Graham, Kathy Burke

Among the wide critical praise for the realism, dour palette, period detail and powerhouse performances of this film I've heard one or two opinions about it being slow, plot-free and even boring.

I can sympathise – even though it's about spies it's not a James Bond thriller and it's not a Jeffrey Archer narrative potboiler full of twists and turns. There's a mole in the upper reaches of MI6 and the top brass, known only as Control (Hurt) calls semi-returned former insider George Smiley (Oldman) back into the fold to root the betrayer out.

Mark Kermode said it wasn't a story about spies or even about the cold war, it was about mistrust and betrayal, and that's true to an extent. If you shift your expectations about fistfights and hot Russian babes in submarines you won't be disappointed. The period detail is indeed brilliant, the orangey-brown smoke-tinted offices of the intelligence bureaucracy of the early 70s perfectly drawn.

Director Alfredson (Let The Right One In) has amassed a shining gallery of acting talent for the inner circle of the MI6 command, from Oldman as Smiley down to Hinds, Firth, Strong, Jones and Hurt. It's a crusty British gentlemen's club where they just happen to plot against the threat of the Soviet Union.

All the trappings of the spy genre from the globetrotting to the violence and even tension are kept to a minimum, and as Smiley goes about his task - even sneaking into a London flat with a gun to listen in on a deal between the mole and a contact – it's with all the passion of a general manager signing off on a stationery order.

It's not for everyone, but if you appreciate the art of putting an era on the screen you'll love it.

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