** (out of four)
In spy movies, the organization sometimes seems to exist only to police itself and its inevitable traitors. So when the operation doesn’t appear to accomplish anything else except cleaning up its own mess, it suggests that shutting down the whole thing would at least keep the Secrets Revealed Monitor out of the red.
As usual, the intelligence officers in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” are often in the dark, trying to uncover intelligence they lack. British agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) returns to duty to lead an investigation when Control (John Hurt) declares there’s a Russian mole in their ranks. Has an Englishman defected to the other side? Has someone faked his own death? Will any of these characters move or talk at a rate other than quiet and classy?
Bringing in Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones and Ciaran Hinds, the casting department has done favors to “Tinker” that the script doesn’t. Not that it was an easy task for writers Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor and director Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In”) to boil down John Le Carre’s novel (which became a popular miniseries), which is extremely well regarded for its density. Yet the film’s story and motives frequently feel far away, without enough definition to characters or a sense of what’s at stake other than the possible release of information we don’t even know. The movie certainly puts the cold in Cold War, but our curiosity needs a hook to hang from.
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