Lauded by just about all the critics, the first question to occur is how would this stand up to the great Alec Guinness tv series? To tell the truth, it’s probably getting on for twenty years since I saw the tv version and all I could remember, apart from that it was excellent, were the characters of Smiley and Ricki Tarr and who the mole was.
So the questions for me now were can I follow the plot and is it any good? The answers to both are yes. This is probably one for repeat viewings, both for the consistently superb quality of acting – the cast is a “who’s who” of British talent – and for subtleties of plot. While there is enough information to get you through on a single viewing, some of the information is given in hints and inferences which suggests further rewards on subsequent ones. Since Alfredson’s previous film, Let the Right One In, was such a subtly wonderful character piece, I’m fairly confident this will have similarly lasting qualities.
The dominant theme is betrayal, and there are a number of significant ones throughout the film, but there is also a tone of regret, of disillusionment and disappointment. There is also a sense of the passing of the second world war generation, as another world is taking shape signified by the diminishing significance of the British in the espionage power-plays.
The film is tipped for Oscars and it will be a scandal (if not altogether a surprising one) if it doesn’t at least get a few nominations.
Now to replay the box set of the series…