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Spy Game

Okay, I lied: my previous entry wasn't my last movie post of the year. This one is. Probably.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979 BBC miniseries)
Screenplay by: Arthur Hopcraft (based on the novel by John le Carre)
Directed by: John Irvin
Starring: Alec Guinness, Ian Richardson, Michael Jayston, Bernard Hepton, Ian Bannen, Hywel Bennett, Anthony Bate, George Sewell, Terence Rigby, Michael Aldridge, Alexander Knox, and Patrick Stewart

Synopsis: At the height of the Cold War, former British Intelligence officer George Smiley is pulled out of a forced retirement and asked to conduct an investigation to uncover a Russian mole within his old spy agency.

First off, many thanks to amycurl for recommending both the book and the miniseries to me this summer!  You were so right about what an amazing storyteller John le Carre is.  If you're unfamiliar with le Carre, read his Karla trilogy (consisting of TTSS, The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People) and then watch the 1979 miniseries.

I am consistently impressed with the BBC's ability to turn out incredible movies and miniseries. Their stuff is always top-notch, and TTSS is no exception. The screenplay stayed very close to the book, which -- as you must know by now -- I always appreciate. The book itself consists of a lot of different people telling Smiley stories about past events (all of which are relevant to his investigation of the alleged mole in the upper echelons of the British Secret Service). People sitting in rooms talking to each other doesn't always translate well on screen (exception: The West Wing), but the filmmakers do a wonderful job of using flashbacks to show the events each speaker is describing.

Sir Alec Guinness was -- and remains -- truly one of the titans of acting. He was wonderful as George Smiley, perfectly capturing his quiet intelligence.  If I have one complaint (and it's not even really a complaint, more of an observation), it's that I envisioned Smiley as being just a little more socially awkward. But maybe I was just too mesmerized by Guinness' ability to command the screen without overshadowing everyone else that I just didn't notice. Physically, Sir Alec was perfect -- exactly as I imagined Smiley would look as I was reading the novel.

Other standouts include Ian Richardson as Bill Haydon, who I found oddly likable despite his treachery, and Michael Jayston as Peter Guillam, Smiley's right hand man. I also enjoyed seeing Patrick Stewart as Smiley's archnemesis Karla. Although he doesn't have a single line in the movie, Stewart was the perfect cast for the Russian agent.

Working Title and Studio Canal are currently producing a big screen version of TTSS that is scheduled for a September 2011 release. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, it stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley. Oldman has some huge Alec Guinness-sized shoes to fill, but I have absolute faith that he can pull it off and put his own personal stamp on Smiley. He's quite the chameleon and can play pretty much anything.  The rest of the cast is equally talented with Colin Firth as Bill Haydon, Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux, Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr, Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam, Ciaran Hinds as Roy Bland, and John Hurt as Control. My only concern is that the novel is very dense; I wonder how the screenwriters handled adapting it into a feature-length film (The miniseries is approximately 6 hours long). It's been getting some great buzz recently, and I heard that le Carre is involved, so those are good signs!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 29th, 2010 11:57 am (UTC)
So glad that you liked it! The pleasure is all mine. :)

I got the newest novel for Christmas, but haven't been able to dive in yet. I'm looking forward to it!

Thanks, too, for the update on the new movie. Colin Firth as Haydon is great, as is John Hurt for Control. I think the whole thing about Haydon is for the character to work, he *has* to be likeable, despite what you end up learning about him. Colin will be perfect at that.
Dec. 29th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
I almost picked up the new novel at the airport bookstore last week, but I currently have three unfinished books sitting on my shelf right now, so I figured I'd better wait until I finish reading those first. Once I buy the new novel I won't want to read anything else! Let me know how you like it. I'm sure it's great.

I agree with you about Haydon -- he wouldn't have been able to pull off this decades-long deception if he didn't possess that particular personality. I think in the novel it was Peter Guillam who talked about (after Haydon was finally discovered) how everyone was so fond of him. Anyway, you're right, Colin Firth will be perfect at that! That bit of casting really excited me.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )