In the last couple of years the spy film has evolved into a brutal, fast and streamlined animal with The Bourne films and Daniel Craigs James Bond moving at breakneck speed and crunching realism. So it’s a relief to have a film that takes the spy genre back to the intricate cloak and daggers that made being a spy so fascinating. So instead of young killing machines running around the world, we have plump middle aged men sitting in hidden rooms trying to work out the state of government. The predicament in the film, adapted from John Le Carres novel is as tense and thrilling as all the Bourne car chases - Set in the cold war, there is a mole in M16 and he is right at the top of the circus. He’s been giving Englands secrets to the russians and it is the job of George Smiley (Gary Oldman) to flush him out armed with the code names of the suspects - tinker, tailor, soldier, poor man and smiley himself who is assigned beggar.
From this we get a film that ticks down like a coiled wristwatch tightening and tightening as we get to the final reveal. Like a wound wrist watch it’s all about the cogs in the machine, and what cogs! the film is a shoo in for cast of the year - Tom hardy (playing the closest to the classic James Bond Spy), Ciaran Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Toby Jones and Mark Strong one of the performances of the year comes from Gary Oldman who is known for playing unstable characters but has recently impressed with more understated roles in the new Batman series. Here Oldmans Smiley is quiet and unassuming, blending into the shadows never drawing attention to himself, he is a character who says more about what he is thinking with flicker of his eyes then with long monologues. The other person who impresses is behind the camera, Swedish Director Thomas Alfredson brings his chilly atmosphere he used in Let the Right One and applies it to the chilly paranoia of 70’s England, his direction is measured, assured and it works perfectly, it is all about the details, a telling look from Smiley, the striking wallpaper behind our characters in their secret office or a character pulling on gloves. This is a film that thrills without gun fights or car chases, a film where the electrifying best scene, which involves our main character unexpectedly raising his voice, sends a shiver up your spine like the best Bourne stunt.