Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Trailerspotting has chickens over Tinker Tailor

It’s here everybody. It’s here! The very first teaser trailer for Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has made it into cyberspace. This writer has not tired of boring you about his enthusiasm for John Le Carré’s great spy novel and …

Fri, Jul 1, 2011, 22:01


It’s here everybody. It’s here! The very first teaser trailer for Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has made it into cyberspace. This writer has not tired of boring you about his enthusiasm for John Le Carré’s great spy novel and for the BBC TV series that it generated. So, it hardly needs to be said that Screenwriter is — despite all his objections to overly faithful adaptations — somewhat protective of the source materials. Well, this is only a taster promo, but you must admit that it doesn’t look half bad. The atmosphere seems sufficiently muggy. The cast all look suitably miserable. It is often the case that the music used on trailers is culled from other sources. I don’t recognise the screeching chords used here, but they certainly do the business very nicely. If you know it from elsewhere then please do not hesitate to spill the beans.

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Look, there’s no way around it. I often give out about internet-bound maniacs objecting to supposed changes in beloved texts. But the Tinker Tailor fan is bound to ponder — not necessarily complain about — alterations from book and TV series. The first thing to observe is that very few of the lines seem directly lifted from Le Carré. Of course, they are plucking phrases that tell the story succinctly, but it would be nice if somebody said “There are three of them and Alleline”. It is also interesting that — though Gary Oldman’s Smiley does get to stand in a peeling kitchen — the film (as is often the case with films) seems more suavely designed than the series. Look, for example, at the Circus meeting round about 38″.  In the series they were (probably quite accurately) sitting in a sparse, starkly painted space that looked rather like the waiting room for a provincial dentist. The current suspects get to bicker in a stylish basement with insulated walls.

Real nuts will note some slight changes in plot. The fact that Jim Prideaux — in the ubiquitous form of Mark Strong — is clutching a rifle signifies a tiny tweaking of the film’s last act. (No spoilers there I hope.)  More significantly, Ricky Tarr’s meeting with the Russian operative Irina — who alerts the agency to the threat — takes place neither in Lisbon (the series) nor in Hong Kong (the book), but in the busy streets of Istanbul. The BBC couldn’t afford to send Hywel Bennett to the far east for the classic serial. It looks as if the movie’s producers have been able to stretch a little further and get Tom Hardy to the western edges of Asia.

I could go on, but I’d run the risk of disappearing completely into the darkest jungles of Sadville.

One quick revelation. I can announce that, just last week, I got to talk to Gary Oldman about the movie. Annoyingly (and most unusually) the distributors were not able to show me the film beforehand. Also, the substance of the interview is strictly embargoed until shortly before release date. But I’m sure I won’t be told off for revealing that Gary was quietly raving about the piece. I suppose he wouldn’t do anything else. But he seemed fairly sincere.

Before going, I will allow myself one more personal indulgence. I mentioned in one of my several hundred posts on this subject, that the opening shot of the series appeared to have been filmed from a building in which I used to work. Ben Campbell, an ex-colleague and occasional commentator in this place, confirmed that this was almost certainly the case. If you’re out there, old man, answer me a question. Are Ciarán Hinds and Toby Jones standing next to the The Palace Theatre’s roof at 13″? It could be. Couldn’t it?

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