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Smiley-tinker-tailor-soldier-spy-30239293-1280-800Now that the “Harry Potter” franchise has come to an end the British acting community has been forced to look for alternate employment. Luckily for them “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was casting, putting together an ensemble cast comprised of several Potter cast-a-ways and an Oscar winner. The acting is top notch but a serious casting flaw costs the movie much of its suspense.

Based on the John le Carré bestseller the movie begins with a bungled secret mission in Budapest before bringing the action back to the highest levels of British secret service. Veteran spymaster George Smiley (Gary Oldham) is brought back from the Old Spy’s Home to uncover a Soviet mole from within the top echelons of MI6.

It’s a world of secret files, Cold War paranoiac intrigue, suspicious glances, loyalty and intelligence gathering. No James Bond stuff here, just pieces of a puzzle being put together from the edges inward. It’s an occasionally complicated story—the BBC made this into a six hour miniseries in 1979-about facts, figures and flashbacks, which is all well and good, except for one fatal casting mistake.

CAUTION! SORTA-KINDA SPOILER ALERT! The key to the story is suspense, which it has in spades, but it tips its hand by casting an Academy Award winner in a seemingly minor role. From the first appearance of this

actor (I’m trying hard not to completely give anything away here) it becomes clear that he is peripheral to the story–or is he? As the intgue comes to a close it’s apparent the high profile actor has more to do with the outcome of the story than director Tomas “Let the Right One In” Alfredson would like you to know. In a world where all is not as it seems he might as well be wearing a big sign that says, “I’m the guy you’re looking for!” around his neck.

END OF SORTA-KINDA SPOILER ALERT! One bit of inspired casting is Gary Oldham as the tight lipped but relentless spy, the ironically named George Smiley. Years spent in the Potterverse as Sirius Black haven’t dulled his edge. He’s a quietly coiled snake, patiently waiting to pounce. Smiley is a character who in lesser hands might have appeared too disconnected, to removed, but Oldham displays a fierce intelligence behind his over- sized bifocals that brings the character to vivid life.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is a cerebral thriller. Not much happens–a trio of bullets is about it for the action and it has one of the most melodramatic tears in recent cinema history–but the prolonged suspense will make your palms sweat.

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