The tortoise to Bond and Bourne’s hares, this classy adaptation of John Le Carre’s Cold War spy novel moves at an unfashionably slow pace, but gets you much further in the long run.
Directed with an obsessive eye for period detail and a strong command of atmosphere by Thomas Alfredson, the Swedish director of the subtle vampire film, Let the Right One In, the film follows the recently dismissed career spy George Smiley’s (Gary Oldman) bid to smoke out a mole in the higher echelons of MI6.
Favouring intricate plotting, dialogue and character over frenetic editing and ballistic action, the film does a wonderful job of illustrating the loneliness, paranoia, personal sacrifice, and isolation that come with being a part of the spying game, in which a breach of trust can mean the difference between life and death.
It is a beautifully crafted piece of work with a fine cast including old hands such as Oldman and John Hurt, exciting rising stars like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch, and, of course, the ubiquitous Mark Strong.
However, whether it will appeal to a generation raised on a type of filmmaking where speed is often of the essence, remains to be seen.
Originally published in The Scotsman