Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: The Movie

The acting and the casting is solid with fine performances. The script makes sense. The staging and setting are well-done in 70's Britain drab, and the score (except for the final piece) creates an appropriate atmosphere. But in the end, you feel like you've just tried to enjoy a 60-minute Hamlet. Yes, we see the plot, we see some of the characterization, we view the ending. But there's so much more!

I can say this not just because I've read the book, and I find LeCarre a rich writer who can use detail to set contemporary scenes in a world of bureaucrats and spies as well as anyone could imagine. In fact, even modest literary efforts can lose in translation to the screen. (An exception, I expect, is The Godfather, but I speculate because I've not read Puzo's book.). No, the reason that I hold this criticism against this film is because I've viewed--on multiple occasions--the BBC production of it from 1979. It's not that Alec Guiness's performance is better than Gary Oldman's--it is, but Oldman does a good job. No, rather, it's the time that the BBC took, about seven 45-minute episodes, allows the richness of the plot and relationships to come through.This allows you to absorb the intrigues and relationships much as what happens when you read a novel, which, at least in the case of this novel, will not occur in a single sitting. This film starts and moves slowly in the beginning, I think trying to capture that rich texture, but in the end, to get in all of the main plot elements, it has to speed up. There has to be a sacrifice and in this movie we lose the back stories of the other principals.

Thus, it's a good, solid movie, worth seeing. However, to give yourself the best experience, go Netflicks or your local public library and check out the BBC production. It's a terrific show. You'll appreciate the difference, and for this one occasion, television beats the movies hands-down for the quality of  the experience.

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