Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ★★★★
In adapting John le Carré’s 1974 spy novel for the big screen, Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson and his screenwriters, Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, knew they had the BBC’s stirring seven-part TV series from 1979 to beat. Those familiar with Alec Guinness’s subtle portrayal of retired intelligence service pen-pusher George Smiley will have resisted a new incarnation, but, to the credit of all concerned, the 2011 film stays true to the labyrinthine spirit of the text – despite having fewer hours of airtime to play with. Gary Oldman also provides a credible alternative as Smiley, just as beaten and lonely. True, corners have been cut to condense the search for a suspected mole – Colin Firth? Ciaran Hinds? Toby Jones? David Dencik? – but the gloomy, paranoid ambience of the early-70s civil service is well realised and almost smells of furniture polish, while every supporting actor is reassuringly recognisable. It all makes for a patient, involving and, aptly, intelligent piece of work.
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