I Spy with My Little Eye

by Chikashi

I am looking forward to watching the cinema version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Unfortunately, I still need to wait a couple of months until the film is released in Belgium, just ahead of Myanmar.

On the style front, the remake ought to be something of an eye candy because Gary Oldman, playing George Smiley, and Benedict Cumberbatch, playing Peter Guillam, were dressed by my friend Timothy Everest and Colin Firth, playing Bill Haydon, was dressed by Huntsman.  It’s actually something of a relief that Firth is not being dressed by Tom Ford for a change:  I find Tom Ford’s signature feature, the floating coat collar, a distraction.

Casting is excellent, and I have read somewhere that John le Carré is well pleased with the film, saying that it is faithful to the original book.  The endorsement is not to be taken lightly because it comes from the author of the book.  However, I am trying to temper my expectations for several reasons.

I think that it is inherently difficult to follow a well executed television mini series with a feature film.  The latter only has about 2 hours to squeeze in everything whilst the former had 7 episodes (5 hours) to develop and present the characters, scenery and plot.

Gary Oldman is very talented, but Alec Guinness is literally a hard act to follow.  One could easily imagine that the book was written with Guinness in mind.

Film making, as with most other things, is done differently today.  It is less challenging to watch a contemporary film in many respects.  Scripts seem to be written in a way that viewers do not need to read into the characters.  Dialogues seem to be constructed such that there is total transparency into the characters’ thoughts.  Viewing tends to be a completely passive endeavour.  Perhaps because of this, the viewer does not really need to pay attention for the whole duration of the film.

In contrast, one has to actually pay attention when watching older productions because they demand that one takes in important information such as the thoughts and moods of the characters through shot angle and content, lighting and facial expression instead of the spoken word.  Of course, watching a film is still a physically passive endeavour, but I think that older productions demand a higher level of viewer engagement.

Of course, one can probably distil this down to a simple matter of viewer preference.  To be sure, there is no shortage of beautiful films continuing to be made.  However, I do find myself glued to the screen watching Bullitt or Get Carter in a way that I do not with contemporary films.  It is easy to stay up all night being consumed by the original BBC production of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, picking up on details that I missed previously.

All that said, I am very much looking forward to seeing the new version on the big screen.