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.
The film follows the same tired action genre step by step. Ex-con and single dad O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is trying to go straight for the sake of his young son Junior. But when the kid is kidnapped in what seems to be a typical carjacking O2 has to pull out all the stops to get him back. Turns out O2 had some nefarious dealings with a gang overlord named Big Meat (The Game) who likes to hack off people’s body parts with a machete. And now Meat wants some payback taking for ransom the only thing O2 cares about in the entire world [sniffle]. So what’s a guy to do? Pit rival gang leaders against each other hook up with a beautiful street hustler (Meagan Good) rob safety deposit boxes and get caught in an extended car chase that’s what. "It's either all or nothing " realizes O2. Very prophetic. Waist Deep has got some great character names--Meat O2 Coco Lucky Junior. Too bad most of the performances can’t live up to them. Tyrese (Four Brothers) does try his best though as the hunky O2 making a convincing albeit a tad stiff attempt at playing a father who’s whole life is his son. Good (Roll Bounce) gets to wear tight sexy clothes and strut around as Coco O2’s accomplice and eventual love interest as they rob banks Bonnie and Clyde style. Larenz Tate (Crash) plays Lucky O2’s unreliable cousin who actually isn’t lucky at all caught between a rock and hard place. And then there’s Meat played by big-time rapper The Game in his feature debut. With a battered face and covered in tattoos The Game certainly looks like one mean badass wielding a mad machete. Thankfully he doesn’t have to do much more than that. Here’s a few words of advice to would-be actors who want to play effective bad guys: Less is more. It’s movies like these that really give South Central L.A. a bad rep—shoot-outs in the middle of the street in broad daylight the carjacks the depravity the sad stories of little kids getting shot. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy place. Of course actor-turned-director/co-writer Vondie Curtis-Hall (best known for his numerous TV guest spots) doesn’t want it to be showing the grit in all its glory and collecting a cast from the area who could lend some credibility to the surroundings. But Hall needs a few more lessons in how to craft a well-thought action movie. The script is hackneyed beyond the usual taking bits not only from Bonnie and Clyde but also Thelma and Louise Boyz N the Hood--and even a little Shawshank Redemption. Hall’s camerawork is also too frenetic at times almost dizzyingly so with unnecessary close ups and choppy sequences. That isn’t to say some of the gun play and car chases aren’t exciting enough. There just seems to be a lack of experience overall.
Top Story: Douglas Feted at Golden Globes
The 61st annual Golden Globes has chosen Michael Douglas as this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient for career achievement, The Associated Press reports. Douglas follows in the footsteps of his father, Kirk Douglas, who won the same honor in 1968. Previous recipients include Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino and Sophia Loren. Douglas will receive the award during NBC's live telecast Jan. 25 in Los Angeles. AP reports the Hollywood Foreign Press Association also announced that Kevin Costner's 17-year-old daughter, Lily Costner, will escort winners offstage at this year's ceremony as Miss Golden Globe.
Hilton "Embarrassed" By Tape
Paris Hilton admitted to AP she never thought a sex video she made with her ex-boyfriend would ever become public. "I feel embarrassed and humiliated, especially because my parents and the people who love me have been hurt," the socialite and reality TV actress said Monday in a statement to AP. "I was in an intimate relationship and never, ever thought that these things would become public." The ex-boyfriend, Rick Solomon, recently filed a $10 million slander lawsuit against Hilton, her family and her publicist, claiming they have sought to portray him as a criminal.
Spears Hits Hollywood Walk of Fame
Pop princess Britney Spears got her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Monday, on the eve of her first album release in two years, Reuters reports. "I'm seriously speechless right now. This is something I've dreamed about since I was a little girl. ... Thank you so much for even coming out today and sharing this memory with me that I'll never forget," the giddy singer told her cheering onlookers at the ceremony. Her album In the Zone was released Tuesday.
Minnelli Files Suit Against Husband
Liza Minnelli has filed a lawsuit against her estranged husband, David Gest, claiming he stole at least $2 million from her. AP reports Minnelli's lawsuit, filed in Manhattan court, says she and her representatives question Gest's expense deductions from money she earned in performances that he produced, or in which he acted as her agent. This follows Gest's own scathing $10 million lawsuit filed in October in which he claims Minnelli physically abused him. Needless to say, the two, who married in March 2002, have also both filed for divorce.
Anderson Launches Clothing Line
Jumping on the entrepreneurial bandwagon, Pamela Anderson is set to launch her own clothing line. AP reports "The Pamela Collection" will include jeans, T-shirts, sweaters, jewelry, lingerie and fragrance when it reaches stores in fall 2004. "I want to make sure it's affordable and available," Anderson said, who will have creative control and will be involved as a co-designer. "I can't wait for it to come out so I can get the clothes for myself and my friends. It's been a lot of work," the Baywatch star added.
Mickey Mouse Turns 75
Happy Birthday, Mickey! The Disney icon arrived on the scene 75 years ago today when he made his screen debut in the animated short Steamboat Willie on Nov. 18, 1928, as an irreverent rodent who takes Captain Pete's steamboat on a joyride and woos Minnie Mouse (who is turning 75 as well).
Music Industry To Get Worse Before Better
According to a study done by the London-based research firm Informa Media Group, the music industry has at least two more years before they'll see any sales recovery, Reuters reports. Informa's study showed the retail value of global music sales will drop to $28.2 billion this year from $30.9 billion in 2002 and to $28 billion in 2004 before returning to growth in 2005 as new Internet music services take off. "The music industry is in a bad way at the moment but the continued fall in the value of music sales is certainly not irreversible. The success of the new download services proves there is a viable market for legitimate digital sales," Simon Dyson, an Informa analyst, told Reuters.
Reagans Gets Airdate
In an unexpected move, Showtime announced they will air The Reagans, the controversial TV-movie CBS nixed a few weeks ago, on Nov. 30, AP reports. Originally, Showtime said they would wait until next year to air the movie, which follows Ronald and Nancy Reagan's rise to power and caused an uproar from some who claimed it contained inaccuracies that projected the former president in a bad light. "We just thought it didn't make sense to prolong this and bring it on next year," Robert Greenblatt, Showtime Entertainment president, told AP. "I'm just tired of people making judgments on this when they haven't seen it. Let them see it."
Role Call: Smothers Brothers Reunite
Tom and Dick Smothers, the successful sibling team behind the wacky '70s variety show Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, have agreed to play themselves in a two-hour telepic for Paul Reiser's production company, Nuance Prods. Variety reports the hybrid biopic/mockumentary will explore how the two got their start, their rise to stardom and their controversial variety show, which CBS yanked due to disagreements over content. Smothers Brothers alum David Steinberg will direct.
The second annual Tribeca Film Festival has announced its slate of special events, screenings and guests to mark the 25th anniversary of the Black Filmmaker Foundation, Variety reports.
Guests expected to attend the event include Harry Belafonte, Mos Def, and Chris Rock.
The festival will screen 10 of the most influential black films of the last 25 years, including She's Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, Boyz N the Hood, Boomerang, House Party and Eve's Bayou. The president and one of the founders of BFF, Warrington Hudlin, compiled the films.
Eve's Bayou director Kasi Lemmons is scheduled to speak on a May 7 panel about the role and representation of black women in film, moderated by actresses Ruby Dee, Alfre Woodard and Anna Deavere Smith (The West Wing).
Filmmaker Robert Townsend, who produced, directed, wrote and starred in the 1987 comedy about the labors of an aspiring minority actor, Hollywood Shuffle, will host a cocktail party with guests and speakers to include Belafonte, Rock, Melvin Van Peebles, Michael Eric Dyson, Reginald Hudlin, Mos Def and Ben Vereen.
"The Tribeca Film Festival founders' love of New York City and concern for the welfare of all New Yorkers gave birth to this festival and this is reflected in their ongoing commitment to inclusion and diversity," Warrington Hudlin told Variety.
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan. Last year's inaugural festival was attended by more than 150,000 people, generated more than $10.4 million in revenues for local Tribeca merchants, and featured several up-and-coming filmmakers.
The festival runs May 3-11.
Actor/activist Richard Gere can add another award to his list of props. The veteran screen star received a humanitarian award on Sunday for his work on freeing Tibetans from Chinese rule.
Gere was among five recipients to be honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, The Associated Press reports.
"I feel very strongly here how her spirit ripples through us without even having seen her with our own eyes," Gere, a Buddhist, said at the Roosevelt's Hudson Valley Cottage during the award ceremony Sunday in Hyde Park, N.Y.
Also honored were Brazil's first lady, Ruth Cardoso; opera singer and activist Jessye Norman; and educator Emilie B. Dyson and her husband, Robert R. Dyson.
Gere's films include "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Pretty Woman" and "American Gigolo." He's currently starring in "Dr. T and the Women."