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Is 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' the 'film to beat' at Venice?

September 6, 2011 |  6:42 am

Colin Firth Gary Oldman Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Unlike many of the movies that debuted at the Venice Film Festival in recent days, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" isn't making a quick leap across the Atlantic to another cinematic gathering in, say, Toronto or New York.

The film is set to soon begin a slow rollout in Europe, but U.S. fans of the John Le Carre espionage novel (or 1970s miniseries) will have to wait until December to see Swedish director's Tomas Alfredson's take on the tale of George Smiley and his hunt for a mole within British spy agency MI6. But early reviews out of Venice indicate that their patience will be rewarded.

Leslie Felperin, writing for Variety, says the film –- starring Gary Oldman as Smiley -- is an "inventive, meaty distillation" of the book and offers "an incisive examination of Cold War ethics, rich in both contempo resonance and elegiac melancholy." Felperin adds that just as Le Carre's novel captured the mid-1970s zeitgeist of disillusionment with politicians and those in power, coming as it did after Watergate, the Vietnam War and the fall of the Shah in Iran, this remake "catches the newest wave of disillusionment and anxiety. It may be a period piece, right down to the slacks flared just so and the vintage wallpaper, but it feels painfully apt now to revisit the early-to-mid-1970s, when things were just about to fall apart.”

Alfredson may be best known to Americans for his Nordic vampire tale "Let the Right One In," which was remade last year into the English-language "Let Me In."  Besides Oldman, "Tinker, Tailor" offers the chance to see Colin Firth off his Oscar-winning role in "The King's Speech." The cast also includes John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Deborah Young says in the Hollywood Reporter that the film "shows a faithfulness that should fully meet the expectations of the writer's fans" and says it's "visually absorbing" and "a solid piece of thinking-man's entertainment for upmarket thriller audiences."

Xan Brooks of the Guardian called the movie "the film to beat" at Venice. We'll see shortly: The Golden Lion will be handed out Saturday.


Hot films up for grabs at the Toronto Film Festival

Telluride: Michael Fassbender exposes more than skin in "Shame"

Venice Film Fest: Buzz (good and bad) for Keira Knightley in "A Dangerous Method"

-- Julie Makinen

Photo: Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch and John Hurt arrive for the premiere of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" at the Venice Film Festival on Monday. Credit: Joel Ryan  / Associated Press