Sunday, 18 September 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I caught this new Tomas Alfredson film on its opening night in the UK.  Receiving rave reviews for Gary Oldman's role as John Le Carre's much-loved spy, George Smiley, this one was indeed well worth watching.

Now, for a book which took the BBC some seven hours to serialise back in 1979 when Sir Alec Guinness was Smiley, one wonders how Alfredson managed to cram so much into just two hours for the big screen.  Moreover, having chosen to cut so much out of the cold war thriller, some of Alfredson's "additions" do seem quite odd.  Was it really necessary to reinvent Peter Guillam as gay?  For any reason other than to shock and suck up to the reader, whose clever "reading between the lines" deduced his sexual orientation where presumably many a thick viewer would have failed?   And why, then, downplay the sexual ambiguity in Bill Haydon and Jim Prideaux's relationship?  Was it necessary to make it so obvious who shot Haydon, when the book remains unclear? And why was Irina shot dead in front of Prideaux during his interrogation?  A slightly gratuitous concession to the modern viewer, at a point when the film was a little low on action, perhaps...?

I am NOT, let me be clear, knocking this film; you must see it.  The acting is great - and there's an all star cast including King George V - yes Mr D'Arcy from Pride & Prejudice (and indeed Bridget Jones), plus Mr Knightley from Emma and both Ollivander & Sirius Black from Harry Potter.  Oh and let's not forget that weird paedophile chap from Atonement.  Everyone's a winner.

Go out and see it before your friends spoil it by yelling out the name of the Russian mole.  And if you can get your hands on it, I thoroughly recommend the BBC Radio 4 version of the Complete Smiley. It is even better - and you can listen to it on your iPod on your way to work!

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