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John Drew

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2012)

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Perhaps because it creates a very interesting narrative contrast.

Guillam (in the film) gives up his own partner, his own socially unaccepted romance, for the higher cause of his work for the nation. By contrast, the villain -- who is apparently fine indulging in as many sexual adventures as he likes -- gives up his own homosexual romance in an act of national betrayal.

I like that reading a lot. On a less interesting note, it also ties back into Smiley's reported conversation with Karla--"We're not so different, you and I...."

The conclusion is so loaded with irony.

The person who thinks the West has become "ugly" is the one who has enjoyed an extramarital affair (for the purposes of his own national betrayal), homosexual affairs, and apparently even a connection with "a boy." His disloyalty is, in a sense, an act of self-loathing.

Nice.

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FWIW, from the Wikipedia entry for "Peter Guillam":

In the 2011 film version Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Guillam is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Guillam is portrayed as homosexual in the film, unlike the books in which he is heterosexual. In speaking of this decision by the filmmakers, Cumberbatch said the necessity of the character's secrecy about his sexuality (for fear of blackmail) went well with the secretiveness of the spy world.

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Oh, and about the ending.

They said that the shooting of the Colin Firth character might be perceived as an act of mercy -- to keep him from the punishment to come, etc. -- rather than as an act of revenge by one character who felt betrayed by another. I can't remember the details of how that scene plays out, but I remember thinking that I might have interpreted the shooting in that manner. My wife exclaimed, "That's what I thought!" so maybe I'm picking up on her interpretation of the scene. Don't know.

That's more or less how I read it. Though, of course, the two might not be unmixed; it's easy to imagine that revenge and mercy could be as tangled at that point as everything else in the movie (truth and falsehood, to take an obvious example, but also loyalty and betrayal, fear and admiration, etc etc etc).

Incidentally, I tried to think of places where tears are shed, and could only come up with this moment and the one where Guillam sends his lover away.

Edited by NBooth

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Oh, and about the ending.

They said that the shooting of the Colin Firth character might be perceived as an act of mercy -- to keep him from the punishment to come, etc. -- rather than as an act of revenge by one character who felt betrayed by another. I can't remember the details of how that scene plays out, but I remember thinking that I might have interpreted the shooting in that manner. My wife exclaimed, "That's what I thought!" so maybe I'm picking up on her interpretation of the scene. Don't know.

That's more or less how I read it. Though, of course, the two might not be unmixed; it's easy to imagine that revenge and mercy could be as tangled at that point as everything else in the movie (truth and falsehood, to take an obvious example, but also loyalty and betrayal, fear and admiration, etc etc etc).

Incidentally, I tried to think of places where tears are shed, and could only come up with this moment and the one where Guillam sends his lover away.

The instance I was thinking of was a character

whose name I can't recall begging Smiley not to send him away on an airplane

. I'm pretty sure that involved some blubbering.

Edited by Christian

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Oh, and about the ending.

They said that the shooting of the Colin Firth character might be perceived as an act of mercy -- to keep him from the punishment to come, etc. -- rather than as an act of revenge by one character who felt betrayed by another. I can't remember the details of how that scene plays out, but I remember thinking that I might have interpreted the shooting in that manner. My wife exclaimed, "That's what I thought!" so maybe I'm picking up on her interpretation of the scene. Don't know.

That's more or less how I read it. Though, of course, the two might not be unmixed; it's easy to imagine that revenge and mercy could be as tangled at that point as everything else in the movie (truth and falsehood, to take an obvious example, but also loyalty and betrayal, fear and admiration, etc etc etc).

Incidentally, I tried to think of places where tears are shed, and could only come up with this moment and the one where Guillam sends his lover away.

The instance I was thinking of was a character

whose name I can't recall begging Smiley not to send him away on an airplane

. I'm pretty sure that involved some blubbering.

That would be Esterhase. Now that you mention it, I think I recall some blubbering there as well. So that brings us up to three. Can we think of any more? Did Smiley cry or just gasp when he saw his wife with Haydon at the party?

Esterhase was played, incidentally, by

David Dencik, who played "Young Morell" in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2011 and Janne Dahlman in TGWTDT 2009. Which is apropos of nothing--I do think that TTSS does the whole "Adult Thriller" thing better than TGWTDT, but that's a whole 'nother tangent.

Edited by NBooth

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Smiley didn't cry. He just gasped, shaken.

Edited by Overstreet

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FWIW, the book was partly inspired by the 'Cambridge Five', a group of high-level British moles that included Kim Philby, who eventually defected to the Russians in the 1960s. At least one member of that group, Guy Burgess, was "flamboyantly" gay, or so says Wikipedia.

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FWIW, the book was partly inspired by the 'Cambridge Five', a group of high-level British moles that included Kim Philby, who eventually defected to the Russians in the 1960s. At least one member of that group, Guy Burgess, was "flamboyantly" gay, or so says Wikipedia.

From what I understand, le Carré's cover identity was blown by the Cambridge Five.

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FWIW, the book was partly inspired by the 'Cambridge Five', a group of high-level British moles that included Kim Philby, who eventually defected to the Russians in the 1960s. At least one member of that group, Guy Burgess, was "flamboyantly" gay, or so says Wikipedia.

Yes. And this is not the only situation in which homosexuality played a part in the scandals of the British espionage game. For this reason, I like the change to Guillam's character. But it also helps, of course, that this change to Guillam's character gives us one of the more moving moments in the film.

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I appreciated the well-articulated shots in TTSS, as well as the visual aspects of the mystery (which is pretty rare thing to emphasize in a movie these days). However, I also found it completely lacking in character development. By the end of the movie, I could not have cared less who the spy actually was. On the whole, then, I think it must be evaluated as a failure.

I agree with other that the visual aesthetics are good, but without good character writing that gloss is pretty meaningless.

For a counter-example, Fritz Lang's mystery/thrillers M and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse are both visually stunning and have excellent character depth.

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On the whole, then, I think it must be evaluated as a failure.

Because you didn't care about the characters? Hmm. I'd say it's reasonable to "evaluate" it as "flawed," but not a failure. A lot of literary adaptations have the problem of being overly abridged, but there are still plenty of other aspects that can make those films admirable. I cared about Smiley, particularly because of Oldman's understated performance. But I don't think there's any call to say it "must be evaluated as a failure."

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Overstreet wrote:

: I cared about Smiley, particularly because of Oldman's understated performance.

I *liked* Smiley, particularly because of Oldman's performance. But "cared about"? Um, not quite, I'm afraid. I think my position on this point converges with that of Mike D'Angelo. (All that stuff about the wife who left him needed to be played up a little more. As it is, it barely registers.)

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However, I also found it completely lacking in character development.

The character development is handled in quite a minimalistic fashion, but I found what glimpses the film offered to be sufficiently compelling, and so I was invested in all of the major players, and even most of the minor ones.

(All that stuff about the wife who left him needed to be played up a little more. As it is, it barely registers.)

If it was played up any more, then I daresay I probably wouldn't have liked that element. We already get sufficient dramatic moments for that to hit home (see, for example, Smiley's reaction to seeing his wife with another man, or the way that Smiley's marvelous monologue about Karla seems to overlap with his own personal domestic problems).

Edited by Ryan H.

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Excellent! A guide to the film's labyrinth, by David Bordwell. This is the most useful piece I've read on the film. It's a thorough investigation. Spoilers everywhere.

Edited by Overstreet

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Just keeping a running tally of friends' reactions.

Last night I visited with my family, and my brother and his wife shared that they didn't much like the film.

This morning I received an email from a friend at church who loves the BBC version and was eager to see the film. He saw it and was disappointed.

I think everyone in my circle of local friends and acquaintances has been less than enthusiastic about this film, while nearly everyone on the critics-heavy A&F board loves it.

Hmmm...

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Just keeping a running tally of friends' reactions.

Last night I visited with my family, and my brother and his wife shared that they didn't much like the film.

This morning I received an email from a friend at church who loves the BBC version and was eager to see the film. He saw it and was disappointed.

I think everyone in my circle of local friends and acquaintances has been less than enthusiastic about this film, while nearly everyone on the critics-heavy A&F board loves it.

If we're speaking anecdotally, I've noticed a number of "normal folk" comment on Jeff's Facebook status over the past couple of weeks on how much they liked it. I realize you're trying to balance out the praise on one end with the disappointment on the other, but what makes this film different from any other critically lauded movie that the public doesn't really enjoy?

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Speaking as someone who hadn't read the book or seen the miniseries, I didn't have any trouble following what happened (and I loved it, btw). But the first two things I heard my fellow audience members say after it was over was: "Well that was weird" and "That was it?!"

But that doesn't necessarily make it a critc vs regular Joe thing--I think TTSS is just a movie I was personally more predisposed to like. I do wish it was getting more attention though (and especially at the Oscars).

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Just keeping a running tally of friends' reactions.

Last night I visited with my family, and my brother and his wife shared that they didn't much like the film.

This morning I received an email from a friend at church who loves the BBC version and was eager to see the film. He saw it and was disappointed.

I think everyone in my circle of local friends and acquaintances has been less than enthusiastic about this film, while nearly everyone on the critics-heavy A&F board loves it.

If we're speaking anecdotally, I've noticed a number of "normal folk" comment on Jeff's Facebook status over the past couple of weeks on how much they liked it. I realize you're trying to balance out the praise on one end with the disappointment on the other, but what makes this film different from any other critically lauded movie that the public doesn't really enjoy?

I'm not sure there's any difference, but I'm having a hard time thinking of a movie where the break was this clear for a movie ostensibly aimed at a wide audience. (I realize it's been in a platform release, but I wouldn't peg it as an arthouse movie.)

My anecdotes are very limited. I realize that. I mention them because they confirm, to a very limited degree, what I suspected would be the case with the film, but which I've yet to hear from others outside my local circles. It may be that these anecdotes are outliers; the film continues to play well as it expands. But I get the sense that some people -- and I'm thinking of a national media figure like Tony Kornheiser, who talked about the film on his radio show -- expected to like it much more than they did and are having a hard time saying what they really thought of the film, for fear that they might be made to look foolish.

It's OK not to like it! That's my point. Despite critics who'll call you an idiot if you had a hard time following it. (And some have. Not here, but on Twitter.) The more I read that kind of dismissive approach toward those who didn't fall head over heels in love with the film, the more I want to raise my hand on behalf of those who didn't like it, didn't get it, and just didn't know what to make of it. All of those reactions are legit, in my book, but if you dare to say so, you get bullied and told you like only dumbed-down commercial garbage.

Edited by Christian

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It's OK not to like it! That's my point. Despite critics who'll call you an idiot if you had a hard time following it. (And some have. Not here, but on Twitter.) The more I read that kind of dismissive approach toward those who didn't fall head over heels in love with the film, the more I want to raise my hand on behalf of those who didn't like it, didn't get it, and just didn't know what to make of it. All of those reactions are legit, in my book, but if you dare to say so, you get bullied and told you like only dumbed-down commercial garbage.

Huh. I've been impressed by the number of critics who've been willing to come out and say they found it confusing, had a hard time following it—and didn't really feel engaged enough to try harder. Which is more or less how I felt.

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My non-critic 2 cents: liked it a lot but found it hard to really love it. Very little emotional investment but brilliantly intellectually engaging. Did find it hard keeping names and code names straight but it didn't stop me from following what was happening. Visually very interesting. Subtle little comedic nuggets spread throughout (the drama rehearsal in the yard when he goes to visit Connie Sachs [where is she living, btw??], or, my favorite, the prominent graffiti in one scene: "The Future is Female"). The ending felt a little underwhelming even though I appreciated the--already mentioned here-- possible ambiguous/ambivalent interpretation of Prideaux's final action of the film.

Related, but probably inconsequential question: what wooden something did the boy come to give to Prideaux right before that?

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Well. I thought I was following it until the end, when I realized that I had missed something. I actually still kind of liked the film and would be willing to engage it again to see what I missed. I think the trick with this film is to not allow your mind to phase out and start thinking about the day, as pretty much all of information in the story is part of the puzzle, and one just can't skip over a thing.

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I think everyone in my circle of local friends and acquaintances has been less than enthusiastic about this film, while nearly everyone on the critics-heavy A&F board loves it.

There's a fair amount of ambivalence toward the film expressed in this thread.

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I just finished watching Smiley's People. Man, I hope Alfredson and Company get together to make a movie out of that. It would be much more easily concentrated into a feature-length project, but oh... what a movie it could be. Alec Guinness is just awesome in this, as is Michael Lonsdale.

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Alec Guinness is just awesome in this, as is Michael Lonsdale.

Those two are generally awesome.

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