Review: Hitman: Agent 47


DIR: Aleksander Bach  • WRI: Skip Woods, Michael Finch • PRO: Adrian Askarieh, Charles Gordon, Alex Young • DOP: Óttar Guðnason • ED: Nicolas De Toth • DES: Sebastian T. Krawinkel • MUS: Marco Beltrami • CAST: Rupert Friend, Zachary Quinto, Ciarán Hinds


If the Bourne films and the Terminator films had some kind of weird progeny, Hitman: Agent 47 would very likely be the result. However, in taking plot elements but none of the visual or multi-layered inspiration from the franchises, we end up with a rather unoriginal action flick that entertains but fails to inspire.

Continuing the relatively recent trend of adapting video games for film, Hitman follows a ruthless master assassin mysteriously named 47 who is looking for the founder of the genetically-engineered agent program of which he is a product. As part of his mission, he must locate Katia van Dees, a young woman who is searching for connections to her own past as she cannot remember who she is or where she comes from. Katia learns from a member of the CIA, John Smith, that Agent 47 is out for her life, but she soon discovers that 47 may actually be the key to her past. All three soon end up on a chase that brings them across the globe.

Star of the titular role, Rupert Friend’s previous performances have included charming gentlemen in costume dramas like The Young Victoria (2009) and Pride and Prejudice (2005), though he is probably best-known for his role as Quinn, a professional assassin in Showtime series Homeland (2011- ). It was this role that led director Aleksander Bach to cast Friend, and the similarities between Quinn and Agent 47 are utilised effectively. Friend is not only a satisfying lead but an exemplary one, and stands on his own feet in what is an already saturated market of action hero actors. The character of 47 is ruthless and delightfully suave. Zachary Quinto (Spock in the Star Trek reboot) also proves to be a welcome addition to the cast in the role of John Smith while Irish actor Ciarán Hinds gives another talented performance, so that sustenance is somewhat added to the otherwise predictable and uninspired plot. While she does her best with an underwritten, clichéd role – ‘I don’t know who I am… now I do know who I am, and someone is going to pay!’ – Hannah Ware’s Katia is dull and unconvincing as an action heroine.

The sets are sleek and the booming soundtrack evokes high-octane energy. With its snazzy suits, expensive cars and blood splattering the screen, everything about this movie indicates its acute attempts to be considered ‘cool’ by its audience. To give credit where it is due, perhaps Polish director Bach simply wanted to have fun for his debut feature. After all, the film gives just what the doctor ordered – car chases, explosions, bloody assassinations, and hand-to-hand combat that is well-choreographed (which may be owed to the stunts and action crew coming from 87-11 Action Design, whose work has featured in Jurassic World, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and John Wick ). However, with this year’s action movie offerings thus far including the perfectly-paced, brilliantly self-aware John Wick as well as the blood-pumping, visually-arresting Mad Max: Fury Road, Hitman simply cannot compete with its generic predecessors. Its ending seems to promise a sequel, but we hope it will be given a miss.

Deirdre Molumby

15A (See IFCO for details)
96 minutes

Hitman: Agent 47 is released 28th August 2015

Hitman: Agent 47  – Official Website



Cinema Review: The Sea

Ciarán Hinds in a still from The Sea

DIR: Stephen Brown  • WRI: John Banville  PRO: David Collins, Michael Robinson, Luc Roeg • DOP: John Conroy • ED: Stephen O’Connell • MUS: Andrew Hewitt • DES: Derek Wallace • CAST: Bonnie Wright, Ciarán Hinds, Natascha McElhone, Rufus Sewell

Max Morden, grieving the loss of his wife Anna, returns to an Irish seaside village where he spent summers as a child. He struggles to finish a book about the painter Pierre Bonnard, but the village provokes memories of the summer when he met the Grace family, the children Myles and Chloe, their parents Connie and Carlo, and Rose, the children’s young governess. Anna’s slow death from cancer continues to haunt Max.


John Banville adapts his 2005 Man Booker prizewinning novel. Some of the book’s more literate pleasures, such as Banville’s playful punning and concern with the meaning of words, gives the dialogue a pretentious feel, Anna’s musings on the word “patient” and the recurrence of “stranded” being two obvious examples. While the screen provides an excellent medium for flitting back and forth through time, Banville’s adaptation fails to capture the uncertainty and unreliability of Max’s meditations that pervade the book. The filmmakers try to capture something like this with characters speaking their lines off-screen while their on-screen mouths don’t move, presumably reflecting that it’s Max’s memory we’re seeing and hearing. It’s a challenging task to bring such fiction to the screen; this adaptation has lost the structural complexity of its source but remains faithful to its emotional core.


A notable cast brings Banville’s fascinating characters to life. Ciarán Hinds, with his craggy face, impresses as the dilettante, worn by his experiences and troubled by his memories. Charlotte Rampling gives Miss Vavasour appropriate mysteriousness, while Sinéad Cusack ably takes some of the more memorable lines as the dying Anna. Rufus Swell’s swaggering turn as Carlo Grace brings an enjoyable roguery, enlivening the film’s grim mood. Unfortunately, the younger cast lacks experience and conviction to give meaning to the subtext of their scenes.


The title, of course, means there are frequent shots to the beautiful briny, and water recurs as a motif, as in Anna’s bath and bleak rain on a window. DOP John Conroy’s lighting patterns give Max’s childhood memories a warmer glow than the dark blue and grey hues of scenes set in the present. The camera moves frequently when static shots or long takes might have given the viewer time and space to meditate and interpret such Max’s memories, as we might do when trying to assimilate Max’s ruminations in the book.


At one point, Max chides his daughter for being of the generation who believe that “everything’s explained, everything’s accounted for”. References to Pierre Bonnard, the painter, make more sense if you know that his later works reflected his desolation following the death of his wife. The character Blunden has an uncertain past. He says he’s retired from the army but he have been active in Belfast. Anna’s past relationship with Serge troubles Max. The young Rose’s relationship with Connie Grace plays out on the sidelines in much the same way as many different possibilities and strands running through the film emerge and recede, just like water washing up on the seashore. It’s difficult to make a success out of the ephemeral in a medium that makes things visible, but director Stephen Brown, in his feature-length debut, makes an adequate, if not entirely successful, attempt.

John Moran

12A (See IFCO for details)
86 mins

The Sea is released on 18th April 2014


Cinema Review: Closed Circuit

'Closed Circuit' Trailer: Eric Bana

DIR: John Crowley • WRI: Steven Knight  PRO: Tim Bevan, Chris Clark, Eric Fellner DOP: Adriano Goldman  ED: Lucia Zucchetti MUS: Joby Talbot DES: Jim Clay CAST: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent, Ciarán Hinds


Martin Rose (Bana) is an arrogant but brilliant defence barrister. When a terrorist attack hits London and the main suspect’s lawyer dies, Rose is called in to replace him. The prosecution’s case against the suspect, Farroukh Erdogan (Moschitto), involves classified evidence which can only be heard in closed court proceedings.


The Attorney General (Broadbent) must appoint a Special Advocate, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall), who has clearance to see the classified evidence and is tasked in representing Erdogan during the “closed” proceedings. Once the evidence is revealed to Simmons-Howe, she and Erdogan’s defence lawyer, Rose, are no longer allowed to communicate due to national security.


But when secrets begin to emerge and lives are endangered, they must work together, despite their personal history, to seek the truth.


In Closed Circuit, director John Crowley (Intermission, 2003) tries very hard to ask important questions like what costs are acceptable in order to “protect national security”? And, at what point does protecting national security become an easy excuse to curtail freedom of speech and freedom of the press? Questions that are certainly topical in today’s world of Wikileaks and more recently, the NSA and GCHQ mass-surveillance operations revealed by Edward Snowden.


However, when it comes to stories of secrets and conspiracies, you get the nagging feeling that this sort of thing has been done before and done better. One notable example being Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer (2010).


Crowley effectively punctuates his film with scenes using multiple CCTV camera angles of the same event making an interesting point about whether we’re right to be paranoid about the all-seeing surveillance state. But when he also has his characters continually shoot suspicious glances at CCTV cameras or strangers in the crowd who may, or may not, be secret service agents, you feel that Crowley is trying a bit too hard to get his point across.


Scripted by Steven Knight, who has written some exceptional scripts detailing life in gritty London including Redemption (2013), Eastern Promises (2007) and Dirty Pretty Things (2007), again produces an admirable script focusing on the morally grey area between seeking true justice and protecting the public at large. So it’s unfortunate when the plot really begins to stretch the limits of credibility as it approaches the third act and asks a lot of your willingness to suspend your disbelief to see it through to it’s conclusion.


As in any conspiracy thrillers, there’s always characters who are not quite what they seem, and when done well, you don’t see the character twists coming. But alas, Closed Circuit doesn’t do a great job in providing genuinely unforeseen twists. It won’t spoil the plot to point out how dastardly Broadbent’s Attorney General comes across from the very start. It’s almost a bit pantomime. (“Oooh, he’s clock-watching during a funeral, he’s definitely a baddie!”)


It’s also a shame to report how uninvolving the central relationship between Bana’s Martin and Hall’s Claudia is, as both actors have both done some very accomplished work in the past. Perhaps because this relationship, and the history they share together, is never really given enough screen time early on to help us believe in it later when the thriller aspect of the film kicks off. A sense of a lack of chemistry between the pair is also prevalent throughout most of their scenes, excruciatingly noticeable in the hotel room scene.


All in all, what looks like a good little taut conspiracy thriller on paper with a great cast and accomplished writer, in reality adds up to much less than the sum of its parts. Bana, Hall, and especially Broadbent, can all do much better than this.


Chris Lavery

12A (See IFCO for details)

96 mins

Closed Circuit is released on 25th October 2013

Closed Circuit – Official Website




Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh preview: The Sea


The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

The Sea

Sunday, 14th July

Town Hall Theatre


The Sea, directed by Stephen Brown and based on the Booker prize-winning novel by John Banville, will close out the 25th Galway Film Fleadh this Sunday. Produced by Dublin-based Samson Films, Ciarán Hinds leads an impressive cast as a widower returning to the seaside resort where he spent summers as a child. The setting for the novel, Wexford, was the location for much of the principle photography.

It is director Stephen Brown’s first feature, and he has been working in TV since he made his last short, the successful The Curious, 18 years ago. Stephen spoke to Film Ireland saying that he was “honoured that The Sea will be shown at the Galway Film Fleadh and that it is recognised as an Irish film. In making it, Ireland has come to mean a lot to me. I found a poetic resonance in the way words are spoken and I found an exacting beauty in the landscape and weather which, all combined, gave me a powerful set of materials to work with. As an Englishman whose contact with Ireland feels like a delight and a beginning, I hope Galway enjoys my movie. Thank you!”

Ciarán Hinds, fresh from the successes of Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, heads up a cast that includes Natascha McElhone (Californication, The Truman Show), Charlotte Rampling (The Duchess), Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist), Sinead Cusack (Eastern Promises, V for Vendetta), Bonnie Wright (Harry Potter) and Ronan Keating’s daughter Missy Keating.

The Sea tells the story of Max Morden who returns to the seaside resort where he spent his childhood in search of peace after the death of his wife. After finding lodges at a boarding house run by the frosty Miss Vavasour, his trip begins to dig up ghosts from his past. His mind returns to the idyllic and eventful summer when he met the Grace family. As Max returns to memories of this unconventional family, and of his departed wife, he will also uncover a distant trauma long forgotten.

Tickets are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at


Ciaran Hinds, Natascha Mcelhone and Rufus Sewell star in John Banville’s ‘The Sea’ currently filming in Co. Wexford

Principal photography is underway on The Sea John Banville’s screen adaptation of his critically acclaimed Man Booker Prize winning novel.

Starring Ciaran Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, There Will Be Blood, Munich), Charlotte Rampling (Melancholia, Never Let Me Go, The Duchess),  Natascha McElhone (TV Series Californication, Solaris, The Truman Show), Rufus Sewell (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Illusionist, A Knight’s Tale), and Sinead Cusack (Eastern Promises, V for Vendetta), the compelling drama also introduces new young talents Missy Keating, Matthew Dillon and Padhraig Parkinson.


After the death of his wife, Max (Hinds) returns to the sea where he spent his childhood summers, provoking a cathartic reflection as the present draws out powerful memories from one fateful summer many years ago – memories of innocent joy, uplifting warmth but also of profound tragedy.  Only an unforeseen revelation will provide a path to redemption and closure.


The Sea is directed by Stephen Brown (feature debut) and produced by Luc Roeg (We Need To Talk About Kevin, Mr Nice) and Michael Robinson of Independent with David Collins (Once) of Samson Films.


Producer Luc Roeg is enthusiastic about the project “I’ve wanted to make a film of John Banville’s haunting and soulful novel for several years and it’s been worth the wait. I’m excited to introduce a new film maker, Stephen Brown, to world cinema and I couldn’t be more delighted with the cast and crew we’ve assembled together with our producing partners at Samson Films. The film has been made possible by the tremendous support we’ve had from Ireland and all our financiers.”


Producer David Collins concurs “We are delighted on a number of fronts, firstly that the film is shooting in Wexford and secondly that we have managed to assemble such a wide range of support from Irish sources to realise this as an ambitious feature film”


Irish novelist John Banville is equally enthused ‘It’s a great thrill that my book is being filmed, and I could not have hoped for a more splendid cast or a better director and crew.’


The Sea is an Independent / Samson Films production in association with Rooks Nest Entertainment, Quicksilver Films, Windmill Lane Pictures and RTE with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the participation of Bord Scannán Na Héireann / The Irish Film Board.  The Executive Producers are Andrew Orr, Philip Herd, Ernest Bachrach, Rebecca Long, Steve Spence, Michael Sackler and Julia Godzinskaya.


The five-week production will primarily shoot on location in County Wexford. Post-production is taking place in Dublin in Windmill Lane.

Independent Films Sales are handling International Sales and Independent Distribution will release the film theatrically in Ireland and the UK in 2013.


Cinema Review: John Carter

It's not sci fi

DIR: Andrew Stanton WRI: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon PRO: Lindsey Collins, Jim Morris, Bob Roath, Colin Wilson ED: Eric Zumbrunnen DES: Nathan Crowley DOP: Daniel Mindel CAST: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Dominic West, Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden  Church,  Mark Strong, Bryan Cranston, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Ciaran Hinds, Polly Walker

Bringing with it a set of unreasonably high expectations given it’s reported three hundred million dollar budget, Disney’s John Carter is an old-fashioned science fiction adventure epic wrapped in a 21st Century digital package. A project that has long been in gestation and that has seen several directors and stars come and go, Carter marks the live action début of Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, he of Finding Nemo and Wall-E fame and a lifelong fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series. All of this would seem to bode well promising a well crafted, tightly plotted, visually spectacular yarn that will be something quite special.

Opening with a somewhat confusing prologue in which Carter’s nephew called Edgar Rice Burroughs reads the diary of his apparently deceased uncle, the film shifts to the Old West where Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a former Civil War captain searching for gold, stumbles upon a mysterious cave where he meets a shape-shifting alien known as a Thern and is somehow transported to Mars. On the Red Planet called Barsoom by its inhabitants he discovers that he possesses magical powers and becomes entangled in an inter-species war between the green skinned, four armed warriors known as Tharks and the redskinned humanoid factions of Zodanga and Helium. A reluctant hero in the classical mode, Carter falls in love with Heliums beautiful, feisty Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and is torn between returning to his home planet of Earth or remaining on Mars and fighting to prevent Helium falling into the hands of the evil Zodangans.

John Carter has so much going for it that it’s a real shame that it isn’t more exciting or involving than it is. One of its main problems initially is exposition. In fact an early scene in which the mythology and back-story of the inhabitants of Barsoom is laid out in voice-over sent shivers up my spine recalling the opening scene of David Lynch’s misbegotten 1984 film Dune, a failed big budget adaptation of classic science fiction literature hailed at the time as the ‘new Star Wars’. The film also lacks a memorable villain who we can root against and this is a near fatal flaw the film just about overcomes. Dominic West as the supposedly nefarious Prince of Zodanga is an excellent actor but the character lacks definition whilst the frankly baffling Holy Therns, a bald headed group of mystical alien interventionists led by the ubiquitous Mark Strong are quite colourless. I

It also doesn’t help that the film has an overly familiar feel to it that is the inevitable result of Burroughs source material influencing several generations of science fiction writers and film-makers in the 94 years since Princess of Mars publication from the aforementioned Star Wars to the more recent Avatar. This means that John Carter struggles to distinguish itself stylistically in terms of visuals and story.

All of that aside, what it does have in abundance is a sense of wonder and innocence essential to all fantasy pulp fiction that the film-makers and his capable cast manage to conjure up. In particular there is a graceful sequence, wittily scored to piece of classical music where Carter discovers his gravity defying jumping abilities and any film with an adorably ugly monster/puppy sidekick who follows Carter everywhere or the simply adorable Collins as the Princess of Mars is not completely without merit. Kitsch as the titular protagonist acquits himself well in his first major starring role bringing a nice mixture of decency, bravery and sensitivity to the part, creates a frisky chemistry with Collins in their scenes together whilst demonstrating an able sense of physicality in the role.

The look of the film whilst derivative is occasionally striking with Nathan Crowley’s production design harking back to pre-history, Ancient civilizations and the Industrial Age. and there is a myriad of visual incident and detail to drink in but aside from a gladiatorial sequence involving what can only be called giant, sharp toothed Martian apes and a Braveheart style desert battle in which Carter takes on the Tharks single-handed, the production is somewhat lacking in action but Stanton’s conviction somehow manages to transcend the dull stretches and narrative flaws which gives John Carter a unique charm all of its own.

So no Dune then but not quite Star Wars.

Derek Mc Donnell
Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
John Carter is released on 9th March 2012


Cinema Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

audience member at screening

DIR: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor • WRI: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer • PRO: Ashok Amritraj, Ari Arad, Avi Arad, Michael De Luca, Steven Paul • DOP: Brandon Trost • ED: Brian Berdan • DES: Kevin Phipps • Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Idris Elba, Violante Placido

The first clever decision made by the makers of Marvel’s latest superhero movie Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is to assume that you didn’t see 2007’s Ghost Rider – to which this film is to some degrees a sequel – because, let’s face it, you didn’t. (Although that film made more than $200m around the world, so surely someone did…)

The film opens with a crudely animated rehashing of the more important elements of the first film; motorbike stuntman Johnny Blaze made a dodgy deal with the Devil, who turned him into a skull-faced, soul-reaping monster who rides a flaming chopper. But now he uses those powers against the minions of Satan, in an attempt to earn back the soul he has sold. In the first film, the Rider could only come out at night, but this film happily does away with that requirement as it doesn’t fit the plot, which requires one daylight action scene. Sure, why not?

In fact, the only continuity here is that Blaze is once more played by Nic Cage, but to complicate matters, this is the ‘other’ Nicolas Cage – while the first Ghost Rider made use of the slightly spaced-out, dull Cage of Knowing and National Treasure, Spirit of Vengeance unleashes the off-his-face whacked-out lunatic of Face/Off and Bad Lieutenant.

The plot follows the trippy Blaze – driven as mad as Nic Cage by guilt over selling his soul, apparently – hiding out in Eastern Europe, because it is cheaper to film there. Seeking redemption, the Ghost Rider teams up with a drunken, shotgun-wielding monk (played by The Wire’s Idris Elba, with a Moroccan-French accent) to save a young boy the Devil has a little too much interest in.

Ciarán Hinds, rapidly gaining ground on Brendan Gleeson to become Ireland’s answer to Samuel L. Jackson (he’s in everything), takes on the role of the Devil, and chews an unfortunate amount of scenery for a film also featuring Nic Cage. There’s only so much growling you can do to try and make a script this lazy work, and it doesn’t help that his ‘evil’ makeup includes one gratuitously bloodshot eye.

The demented duo of directors known as Neveldine/Taylor, the pair behind the ludicrous but undeniably inspired Crank movies, give the film a sort of flair and show a talent for controlling Cage’s uncaged mania that only Werner Herzog has managed in recent years. But the material is all wrong. With PG-13 deaths resulting in offed villains bursting into CGI embers (think the Phoenix deaths in X-Men 3, only slightly less pixelly), and a child actor so dull he drains the energy from the screen, there’s simply nothing Crank going on here. One can only hope Neveldine and Taylor will work with Cage again in future but on more… eccentric fare.

While the film is almost worth seeing for the unleashing of Cage at his craziest – a scene where he repeatedly pops little blue pills feels all too real – the sloppy writing, confusing action scenes and the generally cheap appearance of this $75 million production make this film well worth keeping your distance from. It’s almost an added insult that the story is by David S. Goyer, who gave us The Dark Knight.

If you must catch it, be sure to avoid the unconscionably poor 3D, which is the worst retro-fitting since Clash of the Titans, and barely works for a moment with Neveldine/Taylor’s Tourettes-like camerawork.

David Neary

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is released on 17th February 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance  – Official Website


Cinema Review: The Woman in Black

alcoholic wizard vs woman in black

DIR: James Watkins • WRI: Jane Goldman • PRO: Richard Jackson, Simon Oakes, Brian Oliver • DOP: Tim Maurice-Jones • ED: Jon Harris • DES: Kave Quinn • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds

Like it or not the Harry Potter movies are over, and actor Daniel Radcliffe – despite having enough in the bank to walk away forever – is trying to move onto the next stage of his career. He’s already performed on stage to some acclaim, but his next movie project was always going to be highly-anticipated, and doubtless the knives were out when it was announced he’d be donning sideburns for a Victorian horror story.

Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a widow and single father following the death of his wife in childbirth. But money still has to be made, and his law firm boss sends him off on a last-chance assignment to sort out the will of Alice Drablow, the last resident of Eel Marsh House. As soon as he arrives in the small village nearby, things seem wrong. The locals don’t want him to stay, children are hurried indoors when he passes by, and only local landlord Daily (Hinds) offers the hand of friendship.

Eel Marsh House is on at island at the end of a causeway that gets cut off by the tide twice a day, and en route Arthur sees a cross in the boggy marshland. On arrival at the spooky, dusty house he gets to work exploring and working – but then he begins to hear noises upstairs, and then sees a mysterious Woman in Black in the grounds.

Soon Arthur learns that all the locals have lost children in unexplained accidents, and though Daily dismisses it all as superstition (despite his wife (McTeer) and her obsession with their own dead child), Arthur realizes that his own son’s imminent arrival could be a journey to death.

Establishing a frightening tone immediately (three small girls calmly jump from a building together), this is classic, haunted house, jump-out-of-your-seat stuff. There’s minimal dialogue and almost no music, with the sounds of creaking wood, footsteps and unexplained noises doing all the work instead of lots of blood, over-the-top CGI and an obvious soundtrack.

That may explain its short running time – it’s really only the last 10 minutes or so before there’s any real pace to the story – and as ever with horror movies it’s always hard to understand why people ignore warning signs and go into the cellar or out into the dark.

Adapted from the book by Susan Hill (and with a stage version that’s been running in London since 1989 – the second longest-running play ever next to Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – this movie is from raised-from-the-dead British studio Hammer and, despite Radcliffe’s struggle to convey fear or surprise very well, solid performances, stunning scenery and tight direction make for a surprisingly good shocker. Hopefully Harry fans will give it a try!

James Bartlett

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Woman in Black is released on 10th February 2012

The Woman in Black – Official Website



Cinema Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy




DIR: Tomas Alfredson • WRI: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan • PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo • DOP: Hoyte Van Hoytema • ED: Dino Jonsäter • DES: Dino Jonsäter • CAST: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Ciarán Hinds

Featuring an exhausting list of top-class British actors that would make a Harry Potter film feel inadequate in comparison, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a stylish espionage thriller in the classic Cold War vein. Based on the novel by John Le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy eschews the action and gadgetry of the post-Casino Royale/Mission: Impossible generation of spy movies in favour of pacing, tension and intrigue; and will find an excited audience amongst those who long for the days of The Manchurian Candidate and Klute.

The unbeatable Gary Oldman plays the iconic, grim-faced spymaster George Smiley, recently forced into retirement from the ‘Circus’, the epicentre of British intelligence. But when evidence arises that his ailing and increasingly paranoid former boss, Control (John Hurt), may have been right about a Soviet mole infiltrating the highest offices of the Circus, Smiley is called in to smoke the mole out.

The suspects, codenamed ‘Tinker’, ‘Tailor’, ‘Soldier’ and ‘Poor Man’ after an old English nursery rhyme, are the arrogant but arguably incompetent new Circus boss Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), ladies’ man Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), gruff but cunning Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds) and prissy, watchful Toby Esterhase (David Dencik). Smiley, aided by young spies Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy, must uncover which of his former colleagues is leaking vital intelligence to the mysterious Russian operative known only as Karla, without any of the cabal finding out.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy will come under scrutiny as it has been shot before; as a BBC miniseries starring Alec Guinness as Smiley back in 1979. Over six-hours long, that series allowed the tension and intrigue to slowly build and boil over. Here, the pace moves slowly but ceaselessly, giving the audience very little time to take in the huge amount of information flowing between agents and interrogators.

However, shot by the visionary Tomas Alfredson, who redefined the arthouse horror film with the exemplary Let the Right One In, this film adaptation has a visual flair that utterly eclipses the sterile look of the miniseries. Alfredson and his team filter the colour of the ’70s through an oppressive grey, capturing the rotten heart of the espionage world in an otherwise vibrant era. Two missions, to Budapest and Istanbul, provide the film’s most visually inspired moments, as well as its greatest thrills.

As Smiley, Oldman gives one of his greatest performances, easily rivaling that of Guinness, making the character a more formidable adversary while still showing his weaknesses, particularly in the area of his troubled private life. Still soaring from his Oscar® win, Firth has enough to play with here and gets a number of the film’s best lines. The rest of the cast are largely strong, though Toby Jones feels strangely miscast, and fans of Hollywood upstart Tom Hardy will be disappointed he has little opportunity to show off his skills. The real revelation here is Mark Strong as bitter, double-crossed field agent Jim Prideaux – the undeniably typecast actor here shines as a character of tragic and unexpected depth.

An expertly made thriller, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy feels undermined slightly by its rushed pace – one can’t help but feel that somewhere near the midpoint between this feature and the ’70s miniseries is the perfect spy tale. Fans of the book will likely be disappointed at some of the greater detail and character development that has been excised, not to mention one hugely memorable (and oft-quoted) line of dialogue that is nowhere to be found here.

Intriguing and intense, this will not please all, but it is a memorable, finely acted and wonderfully stylised spy drama from an emerging master of cinema.

David Neary

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is released on 16th September 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy– Official Website


Issue 131 – A Haunted Look

Ciarán Hinds and Conor McPherson - Photo by Hugh O'Conor

Fresh from his Tribeca Best Actor win for The Eclipse, Ciarán was reunited with Conor for another collaboration: Conor’s new version of The Birds at the Gate Theatre. Film Ireland’s guest editor caught up with them for the low down on the film.

Hugh O’Conor: You’ve known Billy Roche, the writer, for a long time. With The Eclipse, was it a question of trying to find something to work together on, or did you read his short story and think, this could make a film?

Conor McPherson: Well, there is something about Billy’s work that I will always love. From the very first time I read his stuff, the worlds were so real to me, I wanted to go and live there. And so I had that sort of soul connection with Billy and we became friends over the years. He told me he was writing a book of short stories and that it was taking a long time – seven years. He was emailing me them as he was finishing them off and one of them was called Table Manners, set during a literary festival, about a guy who is married and has kids and becomes obsessed with this woman, this poet. He begins to stalk her and his life goes completely out of control for a few days. Billy and I had already worked together before; I directed one of his plays, Poor Beast in the Rain, at the Gate. I said to him, ‘Why don’t we look at turning this into a film?’ So that was how it began. I started getting the bus to Wexford and we sat up in his little office. His kids are grown up and moved away and his wife Patty would be making us dinner. We would be up there…

Ciarán Hinds: Getting cosy…

CMcP: Getting cosy. His dog Ringo was there. Billy sat at the keyboard and we started developing it. And it was years we were doing this, on and off.

HO’C: The supernatural element wasn’t in the short story at all. Was that something that you arrived at together?

CMcP: When Ciarán and I were working on The Seafarer in New York, I decided to introduce a supernatural element. Because at the time we had shown it to a few people, like Film4 and BBC Films, and nobody wanted to know. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to make this a genre film somehow.’ And of course it was staring me in the face, why isn’t there a supernatural aspect to this? But it was actually my wife Fionnuala who said to me, ‘I’m warning you, if this guy is married and has kids and he’s falling in love with this other woman, women are going to find it hard to trust him and like him. Why don’t you kill his wife?’ And I thought, ‘That’s brilliant!’ Because if he is available, we will love him and he can also be haunted…

CH: And in grief, I suppose, as well.

CMcP: Exactly. And everything just fell into place.

CH: I hadn’t actually read the story. The soul of it is radically different. The way the guy was – and I love the story that he wrote – it was quite hard on male attitudes. He was a bit of a chancer.

CMcP: That could be why we were having a problem getting people interested in it. Because they were like, ‘Why should we care about this?’ It was a dirty…

CH: …murky world there.

CMcP: Yes, it’s hard. It’s about a breakdown. They were like, okay, thanks but no thanks. Having said that, even then when we introduced the ghost element, it wasn’t like it got any easier. But something I learned on The Eclipse is to keep the screenplay very short. In films I don’t think there is much room for a whole lot of story. There is no time. The image is so powerful, you’ve got to let it tell the story.

CH: It’s interesting, because when I read it for the first time, we were in New York and I was getting to know Conor. I knew that in between the lines there was a whole different psychology going on that would be developed. So I had this initial faith in what it was, even though to begin with it sort of slipped through my hands. Usually when you get a script, you’re going, ‘Oh that’s clear.’ But with this it was, ‘What is in there?’ I showed it to my agent and he was like, ‘Ummm… uhhh…’ I said, ‘I don’t think you really understand. I don’t really either.’ But there are some things you go on because you have a sense of… something else.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 131.


Ciarán Hinds Wins Best Actor at Tribeca

Irish actor Ciarán Hinds has won the Best Actor award for his performance in Conor McPherson’s new film The Eclipse.

The film follows the story of a widower (Hinds) who is haunted by nightmarish visions. When he volunteers at an international literary festival, his life converges with a beautiful author of supernatural fiction (Iben Hjejle) and a self-obsessed novelist (Aidan Quinn) drawing them into a life-altering collision between the living and the dead. The acting talent in the film has been particularly applauded with Variety describing both Quinn and Hind’s performances as ‘brilliant’ and the Village Voice saying ‘the acting was just superb.’

The supernatural drama screened as part of the World Narrative Feature Competition category during the 12-day festival, and has received very positive reviews from the critics to date. Irish audiences will have an opportunity to see The Eclipse when it is broadcast on RTÉ 1 later this year.