Immense disappointment was the first thing I felt coming out of this. A film which so much potential, with stars like Firth, Oldman, Cumberbatch and Hardy, the creme de la creme of British acting talent, could contrive to create such a boring, pain-stakingly long piece of work, was beyond me. All the 5 star reviews, et nothing really happened, characters weren’t developed enough to my liking, and only a couple of performances were standout ones for me. It was a real annoyance for something which I’d been waiting to see for so long.
The story revolves around a potential mole planted by the Russians in MI6, the film is spent with Gary Oldman’s character, George Smiley, trying to work out who it is, with himself as one of the suspects. The trouble is, not one of these suspects are given enough of a backstory for the audience to truly care whether they are good or bad. As a result, the eventual reveal isn’t really surprising, but a plot point that lacks real effect, a worrying fact when the whole film is based around it. Perhaps the original TV series, 7 hours long, was the right length for any iteration, as, despite the running time of just over 2 hours, not enough was revealed about these characters.
That being said, the cinematography is excellent. Shots portray the era perfectly, a country on the edge of a potential World War III with the Russians and America lurking around somewhere too. The sense of the suspicion is a running theme throughout and the thoroughness of Smiley is shown as he goes about his daily routine. He is a well-crafted character, credit must be given to Gary Oldman, however, it’s a shame others are not as well developed as him. Some thought is given to the relationship between two supporting characters played by Mark Strong and Firth, resulting in a good climatic scene, but other than that is it is purely Smiley-centric.
The running time of two hours isn’t the longest film you’ll ever see, but it’ll sure feel like it. It starts and ends rather strongly, but for big parts in the middle, I was finding myself dozing off to sleep! At times, scenes of somewhat insignificant things, sugar being poured into tea, a trip to the opticians, are all cut to quickly, which just seemed to be fillers, and became increasingly frustrating as the film progressed. These scenes seemed ridiculous and pointless, time which could’ve been spent giving more of a life to the ‘suspects’.
Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch provide the best performances of the film, showing that youth does outperform ‘experience’ sometimes. Both are rising stars and it’s clear to see why, with performances that require much emotional depth and a good way of getting themselves across. Hardy is an agent who wants out, and is part of a tragic love-story with the enemy, whilst Cumberbatch is a youthful agent who acts almost as assistant to Smiley, realising how deep he quickly becomes embroiled in everything. Both performances add to what is a rather old, stale affair in terms of acting.
Both opening and end scenes end with a ‘bang’ so to speak and, ironically, are probably the best parts of the film! The backing track of ‘La Mer’, in the end scene, worked well as any emotion was drawn out by the events which were happening on-screen. Strangely enough the music made me happy, a stark contrast to the on-screen events, maybe it was the music, or maybe, just maybe it was because this rather long, boring film had finally ended.