A lot of people seem to be satisfied by a cleverly constructed plot. Last year's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (no commas, commas frighten people) aspires to do more. It doesn't accomplish anything very extraordinary, but it's a perfectly enjoyable spy thriller.
The movie mainly consists of an incredible cast of British actors trying to get information out of one another with casual conversation--John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and, of course, Gary Oldman in the lead role of George Smiley who, as the film opens, is second only to John Hurt's Controller in British Intelligence.
Smiley's story provides an insightful distillation of the whole international cloak and dagger business. He's a cool customer, rarely raising his voice or cracking a smile--his name apparently being a dry bit of humour. He opens up in one scene to his subordinate, played by Cumberbatch, about how he tried to get his nemesis, spymaster Karla, to defect. He tells Cumberbatch that he asked Karla if it wasn't time to acknowledge that the system he served was as meaningless as the system Smiley served.
It's the most emotional part of the movie, which is appropriate since it addresses the buried heart of the whole affair, which is a bunch of men just playing a big chess game with, in the end, little more significance than an actual game of chess except people sometimes get killed while playing.
We learn Smiley's weak spot is his wife, Ann, with whom he has a difficult relationship and whose face we never see. This helps emphasise for us his isolation for his inability to connect with her and therefore helps convey the lonely, disconnected quality of Smiley's business.
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