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.
Saw 3D is about to be released and since it’s the last of the series, it got us thinking which celebrities we wished Jigsaw would insanely and destructively torture as a means of teaching them to be better people, AND to do what he had failed at (which is getting their annual mammograms and prostate exams and brain scans). So who did we recommend to Jigsaw for committing such grave indecencies against us and themselves?
1. Taylor Momsen, Taylor Momsen got her start in a little movie opposite Jim Carrey, called How the Grinch Stole Christmas. She had braids in her hair that were pinned on top of her head, and piercing blue eyes that were supposed to be emblematic of innocence or the arctic, or something. Her next most memorable role came in the form of Jenny Humphrey on Gossip Girl, the humble Brooklyn native who goes back and forth between assimilating with girls of the upper east side and continuing to tack up inspirational photos onto the brick wall of her room in Park Slope. Today, she's walking around flashing her underage body parts and rolling around on tabletops and intentionally ripping her stockings so people will slide dollar bills into her clear platform shoes. She's also talking about how stupid other artists are because they're not in love with music as much as she is, or how she's more of a true artist than they are and not as easily influenced by mainstream society. The problem isn't that she matured and changed her viewpoints...but rather that she seems to feel the necessity of putting others down (other really talented others) to cement her hardcore existence that so interestingly began in the world of bejeweled headbands and religious holidays! Jigsaw would be forgiving in terms of people maturing over the course of their lives, but he'd be less inclined to ignore someone who attacks others, just because they're not the same as her.
2. Katherine Heigl. Katherine Heigl stars in the same movie over and over again, and bless our hearts, we keep going to the theaters to see her because we keep hoping she’s made a different movie. But she never does. Luckily for us, we learned our lesson right around the time she made Killers with Ashton Kutcher, and we finally accepted her for what she is: an actress who makes one movie a whole mess of times. She, however, has not learned anything, as evidenced by her stellar job of sacrificing her face to chocolate pudding and asking us to believe it was baby poop in Life As We Know It. Even though our faith in her is now certainly very dead, she still deserves to have her appendages grinded down into nubs for causing us to so innocently believe she was capable of appearing in better types of movies. Deceit is liked by no one.
3. The Situation. This guy does not deserve to be able to get out of his Cadillac and walk down the street, counting how many plastic cutouts of his abs he sees in store windows that people can use as their Halloween costumes. Even though Michael Sorrentino has undeniably become a household name and a pop culture icon, his exposure and influence is tremendously disproportionate to his contribution to society. And he shows no sign of slowing down – he just came out with his own vodka, and previously designed his own ab workout, a book, a spot on Dancing with the Stars, a vitamin line for GNC, a rap song, a clothing line, and a collection of Reebok shoes. As a result, he’s grown into an egomaniac. Which, we all know, Jigsaw enjoys with his sardines and an IV drip.
4. Lea Michele. Oh, stop it. She’s bad. Parts of her are cute, like her Broadway roots, her lunches at Au Bon Pain with her mother in Los Angeles, and the way she broke into Hollywood even though she refused to get a nose job. But have you ever stopped to consider why Lea Michele does such a good Rachel Berry? She’s already bratty, self-centered and demeaning! So nailing the character isn't all that difficult! And she thinks the fact she’s grown so tight with the guy who created the show about plastic surgery on FX (where one deranged person continually was having sex with his dead sister) means she’s established! Lea Michele is no doubt a talented entity, but she’s basing her abilities on a show where her character is not at all different from her in real life… which is cheating. And Jigsaw has quite the assortment of punishments for that breed of crime.
5. January Jones. One of Don Draper’s biggest antagonists on Mad Men is his past, but a much more pugnacious one can be found in January Jones’ character, Betty. Now, January is just doing her job and playing a character. So technically speaking, Matthew Weiner expects us to only despise Betty. But she’s just so much of a bitch sometimes (and almost always to Sally) that we deem it necessary for our hatred to transcend Betty’s boundaries and let it bleed over into January’s territory. She’s just the worst! Jigsaw would undeniably take pleasure in reminding January what it feels like to be completely helpless and at the mercy of someone as unsympathetic as she's made her character on the show out to be. .
6. Charlie Sheen. This guy has had it coming since he called Denise Richards the N-word way back at the end of 2008! How is it fair that he gets to trash a hotel room (that’s designed for little children to enjoy and love and jump on the beds and marvel at the mystery of wallpaper and remember that joy forever) with cocaine, an escort, and break a chandelier, and then just swoop over back to the set of Two and a Half Men, where he makes $1.8 million an episode? How is that fair? In actuality, almost every victim Jigsaw has punished shares something in common with Charlie Sheen – they’re almost all self-destructive, disrespectful to others, and utterly reckless with no understanding of responsibility and consequences. Jigsaw would enjoy having Sheen as a victim even more than having a cancer-free brain.
7. Michaele and Tareq Salahi.You’ll recall the Salahis were the delightful people who attended President Obama’s State Dinner in their saris and their rosacea and their cameras, all ready to be filled up with candids of Joe Biden. But technically, the Salahis weren’t invited to that glorious event – they sneaked in! So after listening to them give interview after interview, saying they had received an invitation and objecting to being called “party crashers,” they appeared on The Real Housewives of DC... where not only was it revealed that they DID crash the State Dinner, but that they were looking for a $100 million house to move into (even though they had no money and couldn’t provide their real estate agent with a copy of their bank statement) and a defunct winery and a bad case of multiple sclerosis! In other words, they’re the snowglobe that packs the most flurries! They’re the perfect victims for Jigsaw because even as they’re watching the screws get closer and closer to their eyeballs, they’d continue to respectfully decline to answer any questions under the advisory of their lawyer.