Illustration: Adeline Pericart

We laughed, we cried, we sneaked in our own popcorn. 2011 brought with it some memorable trips to the cinema to revel in the joy of film. And so the Film Ireland collection of filmbots look back in love and recall their favourite films of the last year in the latest installment of…

We Love… 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy

(Tomas Alfredson)

‘… the most tense and nail-biting film of 2011…’

Bryan Lloyd

A film like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy is rare in that it genuinely respects the audience’s intelligence and rewards them for it. It may not be unique, but it’s been so long that a mainstream film has managed to reward its viewers with such a captivating and intriguing plot and screenplay, it feels like it is rare. Such is the power of the screenplay, each of the actors involved were able to put out genuinely Oscar-worthy performances without compromising on the film’s grisly and somewhat uncommercial aspects.

Gary Oldman scales back his tendency to go overboard, instead giving a nuanced and insightful look into a man who spends his life corrupting and honing in on people’s weaknesses. The film, for those that have seen it, will now truly pitch-black it is in tone. Every single character is unlikable and the film paints a more realistic view of the intelligence community and its inhabitants – not an Aston Martin or snappy one-liner in sight. Here, they are riven with stress and burnt out by living lies on a daily basis.

From John Hurt’s embittered alcoholic to Mark Strong, in one of his finest performances ever, as the restrained and closeted individual who is the centrepiece of the plot, each actor in this is truly at the top of their game. The camerawork of the film and how Tomas Alfredson shoots – in his first English-speaking film – is very much European; economical and purposeful. Each scene has a direct purpose for advancing plot and character development, but without it feeling like things are being spoon-fed. Indeed, the set design is fantastically genuine, too. Nothing seems kitsch or there for nostalgic purposes; much like everything else in the film, it has a specific goal to achieve and it does so with elegance and style. There are no massive explosions or love interests, no death-defying set pieces or breathless chases – yet Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy gives us the most tense and nail-biting film of 2011.


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