In the blow-things-up-big world of movies, it's refreshing to see a film like "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."
Director Tomas Alfredson's bold choice to make a production that gets its power from quiet moments delivers a film with as much force and power as any big explosion.
Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, a disgraced semiretired British spy who returns to the job to find a mole. In a world where everyone keeps secrets, the list of possible suspects proves lengthy.
What makes this film better than a standard spy thriller is that Smiley must deal with the investigation and events in his personal life at the same time.
This role is quite a departure for Oldman, who often gets cast to play over-the-top characters in movies like "Lost in Space," "Red Riding Hood" and "The Fifth Element."
It was smart casting by Alfredson because even at rest, there's an element of danger in Oldman's performance. This is a guy who in his younger days would have given James Bond some competition but now accepts his more cerebral ways.
Oldman's amazing performance, along with another superb performance by Colin Firth, is why Alfredson can get away with the quiet approach. It also helps that the source material is so strong. John le Carré's book is as smart when it comes to complicated relationships as it is with the complex spy story. This blend is what elevates it above the normal thriller, and screenwriters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan have maintained both in their adaptation.
The film works despite major cuts to the original story. Reducing le Carré's complicated Cold War tale to a workable length meant several characters were diminished, or completely eliminated. The writers keep a tight focus on the central story line so the missing players and plot points aren't missed.
The quiet power of Alfredson's direction, the controlled but brilliant performance by Oldman, and a smart adaptation of the original story makes "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" a production that proves movies that have something to say don't have to shout to be heard.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at email@example.com
or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.