Gary Oldman leads the England All-Star Acting Team in this second adaptation of John LeCarre’s cold war-era spy novel. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In) and the screenwriters wisely keep it as a period piece, avoiding the headaches that modern technology would represent in this particular story (not to mention the necessity of having the Soviet Union as an enemy). Oldman is George Smiley, a veteran spy asked by his retiring chief (John Hurt) to investigate the allegations of an informer in “the circus”, or Secret Intelligence Service. He recruits a young agent (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help, and gains valuable insight from a rogue agent (Tom Hardy). The cast is rounded out by Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds and Toby Jones.
This is an excellent-looking film, beautifully photographed with restrained and appropriately mysterious performances from the cast. My complaint lies with the script, which uses a device of jumping around in time and showing the same events from multiple perspectives to slowly reveal the truth… which is pretty predictable, really, especially for those of us who have seen Stalag 17. I was left with the same general dissatisfaction as I did when I finished watching the original version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: it looks like a million bucks but it has a ten-cent story.