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.
Is the supermarket checkout line going too fast for you? Well, don’t worry. Beginning this week and (for every Friday hereafter), we’ll comb the tabs for the sort of news you're either too ashamed and/or too cheap to buy (and read) for yourself.
Why will we do this? Quite simply, we have no shame.
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of this week's Top 10 tabloid tidbits (from the just-released editions of the National Enquirer, the Star and the Globe):
1. Whitney Houston Pregnant? From deep within the Florida jail complex where Bobby Brown is currently being held on a probation violation, a fellow inmate intimated to the Star what the rapper reputedly previously intimated to him -- that Houston is pregnant with Brown's second child. Moreover, the inmate told the Star that Brown is weary about the baby’s health “because of all the coke [Houston] was doing.” (Our calls to Houston’s people have not yet been returned.)
2. Regis Reign Preordained More reasons why everybody should have their own personal psychic: The Globe says that Regis Philbin knew all along that “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was going to be a freakin' huge hit. How did he know? Because his psychic, one Sydney Omarr, told him three years ago.
3. The Hoover Conspiracy The Globe forwards the theory (a first of its kind) that ex-FBI top brass and closeted drag queen J. Edgar Hoover did not die in 1972 from a heart attack but was killed by poisoned toilet paper. A forensic expert tells the tab that the particular method of assassination was pretty darn ingenious since the evidence would have been immediately “flushed away.”
4. Kathie Lee Losing It? Per the Globe, friends of Kathie Lee Gifford are collectively concerned over the talk show hostess’ alleged tenuous sanity. And, boy, do they have reasons to worry, according to the tab: (1) Gifford has told friends that she’s on a potato chips only diet and (2), she has been really into wearing clothing that directs people’s attentions to her chest.
5. Summer Vacations Really Expensive! The National Enquirer reports that the average American will spend more than $2,000 on summer vacation this year -- that’s 8 percent of the average American's annual income (representing about 22 days of work). Also, the Enquirer says out of those average vacationing Americans, 73.6 percent of them will pay for their trips with credit cards.
6. Sharon Stone Is Happy The Globe, the National Enquirer and the Star all agree that Sharon Stone seems really stoked about adopting her baby boy. Also, all three tabs employed “Basic Instinct” puns to describe Stone and husband Phil Bronstein’s excitement, i.e. the two have a “Basic Instinct for parenthood”; Stone pursued her “Basic Instinct to become a mom”; “basic maternal instinct”; and Stone “displayed her basic maternal instinct.”
7. Heather Thomas Has a Midwife Witch Well, not exactly. But according to The National Enquirer, the 42-year-old “The Fall Guy” first-time mother attributes the success of her recent labor to her spiritual adviser, who was said to have summoned the power of “white magic” during the whole messy thing.
8. Billy Joel Exhibits Typical Male Behaviors The Globe has it that aging rocker Billy Joel reportedly has taken to hiring fashion consultants to “remake” girlfriend Trish Bergin to his taste and liking.
9. Helen Reddy: Hello, Sailor! Per the Globe, the 50-something "I Am Woman" chanteuse promotes the idea of keeping a boyfriend handy in every part of the globe. Says the ready Reddy: "It really makes much more sense."
10. Just the Date-Rape Drug, Ma'am? Aging sex kitten Mamie Van Doren ("High School Confidential!") tells the National Enquirer that actor/producer Jack Webb had his way with her after he tied her up and apparently drugged her during a "date" in 1953. "I wanted to pick up the phone and call someone ...," Van Doren says. "[But] they'd never accept that the star of 'Dragnet' was a rapist."
He won’t be back. Cinemascape.com reports today that director James Cameron has confirmed once again that he will not be involved in any further "Terminator" films. While attending the premiere of "U-571" recently, Cameron was asked about his potential participation in "Terminator 3." Cameron replied, "Not gonna do it."
Additionally, recent comments made by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton have the pair saying that they have no interest in another sequel unless Cameron is directing.
But the question remains: Will there be a "Titanic II"?
WHAT A SCREAM! Miramax has registered the Web sites www.scream4.com through www.scream10.com in making plans for a new batch of sequels, msnbc.com reports. A Miramax official has no comment, but director Wes Craven is among those who never completely believed that the studio would kill off the successful slasher-flick franchise starring Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox Arquette.
A CALL TO ACTION: Bill Cosby, in Los Angeles on Tuesday to receive the Steven J. Ross/Time Warner award from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television, called for additional outreach programs that give minority students the chance to prepare for careers in the entertainment industry. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cosby said that such programs help give an edge to aspiring talents who already face stumbling blocks as they enter film and television.
GOODBYE, OSCAR: Richard D. and Lili Fini Zanuck have said that they will never produce another Oscar telecast, DailyVariety columnist Army Archerd reports today. Richard Zanuck told Archerd, "Although it was one of my greatest experiences, I'll never do it again." Lili said: "We were very happy with the reception ... (but) we have a day job."
COUPLES WATCH: Howard Stern and Angie Everhart have blossomed into something serious. "They have been going out," the model's rep, Shari Goldberg, tells the New York Daily News. "I don't know about Howard, but she's not seeing anyone else." ... Actress Kristin Scott Thomas is expecting her third child. She is married to Francois Oliviennes. ... Joan Lunden, the former host of ABC's "Good Morning America" who reportedly is a contender to replace Kathie Lee Gifford on "Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee," has married Jeff Konigsberg, who operates children's summer camps. It is Lunden's second marriage.
HERE’S LOOKIN’ AT YOU, KID: Robert Evans’ best-seller "The Kid Stays in the Picture," which chronicles the producer’s rise to power in Hollywood, might be brought to the screen as a feature documentary by this year’s DGA documentary feature winners Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein ("On the Ropes"), the Reporter says. The news first broke March 25 on foxnews.com.