1st Day of 2012: Gorgeous

Saw “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” at the downtown Century 20.  The day was gorgeous.  Self watered, six buckets in the backyard.  Both her bouiganvilleas, still baby-sized, even after so many years, seem to have been killed off, finally, by the last cold snap.

The movie was gorgeous to look at.  Self was not as overwhelmed by Oldman’s performance as reviewers have been.  She did think Colin Firth and Tom Hardy were outstanding.  Especially Tom Hardy.

With his rugged build and his faux blonde hair and his crooked lower teeth and his sometimes brutish mien, Hardy was still able to project a beating, human heart — in some ways, he was the perfect foil for George Smiley, who we know has a beating, human heart, but one that is overlaid or held in check by decades of British-bred reserve.  SPOILER ALERT!  Take the scene close to the end where Smiley comes home and realizes his wife has come back to him:  in that scene, Oldman is filmed entirely from behind, but there is an almost imperceptible slowing of his steps as he goes down a hallway, and then he rests a hand on the stair banister.  That gesture spoke more eloquently than his face or voice ever could,  and self ended up finding the scene tremendously dramatic, almost a primer on how to use understatement to project tension.

Tom Hardy’s Ricky Tarr, on the other hand, follows hunches, operates on the fly, and turns out, improbably, to be exactly the kind of spy the British intelligence service needed to get hard and reliable information, if only at that particular point in time.  Hardy is even required, at one point, to shed actual, human tears, and hey, he does manage to pull it off without looking silly or even the slightest bit un-manly.

Let’s see, what else about the movie?  It is set in the 1970s.  There must be some unspoken rule of thumb in British cinema/television that scenes set in the 1970s (as “period” as any World War II or Depression-era film, self supposes) must occur in murky shadows.  Somewhat reminiscent of the time-bending BBC detective series, “Life on Mars” (which, alas, had a most untimely demise)  Still, self loved the attention to detail, the porcelain English bulldogs behind “Control” (played by John Hurt) in his office, the huge cigarette lighters that look like they weigh about five lbs., the ugly suits, and most especially the crazy brown and orange diamond-pattern of the walls of the room where the top brass of “the Circus” held their regular meetings.

She kept fearing for the life of  George Smiley’s young assistant, Peter Guillam (who turns out to have a big secret of his own —  well played, Benedict Cumberbatch!  Self would like to take this opportunity to inform dear blog readers that Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes in the recent BBC series, the one that is set in modern times, and he is absolutely right in that role).  Or for the life of Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy’s character).  The movie unfurled slowly but surely.  Self was completely riveted, every moment, from first to last.

She also thinks it is pretty neat that we never know what Mrs. Smiley looks like, she appears as elusive to us as she must to her husband.

Colin Firth is of course still handsome.  Great casting there, too, by the way!

So, let’s see.  How does this movie compare to other movies self has seen recently? (For a year that was really lame —  movie-wise — 2011 really went out with a bang!)  Self thinks she liked “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” more than “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” or “Mission Impossible” or the Sherlock Holmes movie.  She’d put it about even with Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.”  (She didn’t, alas, enjoy “My Week With Marilyn” all that much)

Perhaps it isn’t fair to compare this movie with the “Mission Impossible” movie, for this one is built on intellect and nuance, while that one was built on action and spectacle and a spate of can-you-top-this moments.  “Mission Impossible” was filled with impossibly beautiful (Paula Patton) or impossibly funny characters (Simon Pegg), while “Tinker, Tailor” was filled with (mostly) plain people (and we are all, in real life, extremely plain, dear blog readers) behaving in absolutely astounding and yet humanly heroic ways.  In its way, in its genre, “Mission Impossible” was as excellent a movie as “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is.  Self thinks she needs a little of both, before she can consider a movie-watching season really totally satisfying.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


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