Friday, January 13, 2012

'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy': Dull, Dull, Dull, Dull

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," John Le Carre's masterful spy tale, the one that is supposed to earn the always riveting Gary Oldman his first Oscar nomination, is quite possibly the slowest movie I've ever seen. Slow, obtuse, complex, vague and difficult to comprehend at its best. At its worst, well, I'm still waiting for it to begin. gives this dud an inexplicable 84 percent raging (96 percent among top critics) which only goes to show that critics and the rest of us are as far apart as Democrats and Republicans (they're the Repubs).

Oldman spends the length of the movie with a stone face either sitting or walking, saying little, almost never changing expression. I guess he's suppose to be thinking. There is a fine British cast that, to my mind, is all but wasted and left with little to do but mumble, hint, evade and make references that are so obscure--and never explained--as to be exasperating.

The cinematography is interesting and many of the critics credit it as being the saving grace of the movie, but mostly what it is is gray, like the rest of the movie. The shots are framed well, but they don't give any sense of unease, urgency, threat or dread. It's like somebody took a lot of the natural color out in the same way the movie is acted.

The story is a complicated spy drama as all of Le Carre's works are, but my recollection of the book is that, as slow as it was, I could follow it. A frustration I have with so many movies made in the British Isles is that producers seem to think Americans speak the language and understand its nuances and subtleties. Nothing could be further from the truth. Subtitles are needed on movies like this--especially with the level of mumbling being near epic--as much as they are needed on a Croation or a French or a Chinese movie.

The theater was full tonight. My guess it won't be so full tomorrow. The grumbling coming out the door was pretty much universal.


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