From James Bond to Jason Bourne, it’s easy to forget that espionage films can be stately affairs. But that’s exactly what director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) achieves, as he takes his lead from author John le Carré to craft an impeccable and brilliantly sly, slow burn thriller.
Gary Oldman is unrecognisably understated as he steps into the shoes of George Smiley, the role Alec Guinness made famous in the 1979 TV series. In the crucible of the Cold War, Smiley finds himself unceremoniously ousted from the British Secret Intelligence Service (code-named: the Circus), only to be covertly rehired in order to sniff out a suspected Soviet mole. Alfredson seamlessly cuts between the past and the present as Smiley and his assistant, Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch), meticulously investigate.
The ensemble cast that stirs up the Circus is simply an embarrassment of riches; with Colin Firth, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones and Tom Hardy all adding to what is masterclass filmmaking on every level. Oldman leads the charge in pitch-perfect fashion, making this film a must-see for lovers of the genre.
4 ½ stars
Published in The Big Issue #398
Australian release date: 19 January 2012