Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
One day Joe Dirt a radio station janitor gets dragged onto a popular radio show where the host (Dennis Miller) at first browbeats Joe but then becomes intrigued as Joe tells his life story on air--and so do the listeners. Apparently little eight-year-old Joe got separated from his parents in the Grand Canyon and the boy sets out to try and find them. Through his travels he is ridiculed to no end for his rocker hair (which is actually a wig fused to his head; it's too lame to explain--just go with it) and style of dress as well as his unique view of the world which is fairly optimistic considering how messed up his life has been thus far. He meets some friends along the way including an American Indian (Adam Beach) who sells weak fireworks by the side of the road; a mobster (Christopher Walken) who is under a federal witness protection plan; and his one true love Brandy (Brittany Daniel) a sweet down-home girl who lives in the perfect town Silvertown. But it's his quest to find his parents that drives him onward until he eventually discovers the truth.
David Spade…Dennis Miller…Christopher Walken? One would think that with this kind of talent attached to the film it would actually have a funny moment or two. But alas that is just not the case. Spade trying to play a white trash hick without any of his sardonic eyebrow raising simply misses the mark. He may be trying to break from his usual sarcastic shtick making the character Joe Dirt a sympathetic simpleton whose sheer kind-hearted spirit makes positive things happen to him a la Forrest Gump but it's not in any way believable. Sarcasm is Spade's trademark and he needs to stick with it. It seems all the sarcasm is poured into Dennis Miller's cocky radio show shockjock. But his usual witty repartee comes off as obnoxious and over the top. Walken is as quirky as ever which neither harms nor helps the film (although he gets to do some fancy dance moves at one point). And singer Kid Rock might be kicking himself for choosing Joe Dirt as his first feature film.
Only by the power of Adam Sandler who was the executive producer did this film get made one would guess. The script can't decide whether it should go for all out gross or romantic comedy. Spade who co-wrote the film can't be counted on to carry a film by himself since his last film Lost and Found (1999) was a complete disaster. Still at least that film had some redeeming qualities since Spade did what he does best-play the smart-ass little guy who gets the girl. In Joe Dirt the character comes off only as pathetic and the lessons he is supposedly teaching the rest of the country mean nothing.