Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A month at the movies #25: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

While he may have finally bagged an Oscar by putting on a fat suit and lumbering around the screen as a grumpy historical figure, Gary Oldman's finest performance in recent years was undoubtedly his George Smiley in 2011's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 

He's so quietly brittle, while still super-sharp. Well-composed at all times and unflappable in moments of stress, with just a hint of the human being inside creeping out in moments of tiny weakness. He's a puppet master who takes no real delight in pulling the strings, he just wants to get the job done.

Still, as good as Oldman is, Alec Guinness' Smiley in Tinker Tailor and Smiley's People in the 70s and 80s is even better - more bumbling and avuncular, but it's all an act, using it to trap his unsuspecting prey who walk right into his schemes.

And there is a moment at the end of Smiley's People that is just devastating, where Smiley has defeated his ultimate enemy, but used the target's love for his daughter to trap him, and in order to do it, Smiley has shut away his own love and affections, and his victory is so stale and it's all there on Guiness' face as he quietly melts down in his moment of triumph.

The moral of this story is - if you really need an actor to sell a 'what have I done?' moment, there was never a finer actor in history than Alec Guinness. But Gary Oldman will do for now.

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