I had the pleasure last night of not only seeing possibly one of the best true spy thrillers I’ve ever seen but to also spend 45 minutes in the company of two absolute film legends, Gary Oldman and John Hurt. Ok so when I say ‘in the company of’ I mean along with a couple of hundred others, but still, I was very star struck. They turned out to be perfect gentlemen and very interesting too which was great as I’d have hated to have my view of them dampened if they’d turned up and been rude or boring. I’ve tweeted a picture for your interest/proof/gloating.
But on to the film which to put it mildly, exceeded my expectations.
The danger the film was in before it even got started was that it was condensing an incredibly complex book into a 2 hour film which had already been condensed slightly into a revered 6 hour mini series that set the bar for what could be done with British serials.
Luckily, due to the trimming of some elements of the story, the film we are left with has slightly more urgency about it and gradually builds the tension throughout much more than the TV series did. Not that the TV series was trying to but it just means that already it’s setting itself apart from it 1980s predecessor.
Then of course, there’s the very long shadow cast by Alec Guinness in the title role of the TV series. In that Guinness is devastatingly good, conveying thoughts and emotions with only the slightest of looks through those thick rimmed specs. Here Gary Oldman wisely doesn’t try to copy Guinness in anyway and makes the role his own. His Smiley is a bit more openly assertive and out going and dare I say it more friendly. It’s a great performance and one I really do think should be acknowledged come awards season.
Around Oldman are a cast most would only dream of with male acting legends of the now and probably future. And Kathy Burke.
Tom Hardy and Mark Strong are both excellent. As is Colin Firth. But it’s Benedict Cumberbatch, with probably most of the screen time after Oldman, who put’s in the best performance. Showing why he’s already in high demand after pretty much just 3 episodes of Sherlock.
The look of the film is fantastic and despite the muddy browns, greys and blacks it’s actually quite beautiful. Director Tomas Alfredson does a great job with the film, giving the actors time in some of the longer, slower scenes, often leaving a lot of silence which keeps you completely wrapped in a story which is far more dialogue heavy and less action than the trailer would leave you to believe.
Overall it’s more or less flawless and I’d recommend anyone to go see it. Just be prepared to have to think and closely follow the story. Oh, and don’t expect to have Gary Oldman and John Hurt there with you. Only I get that. Sorry.
The film opens nationwide from this friday.