Schizopolitan – The Podcast: Episode 19 – What if Feelings had Feelings? (A Look at Pixar and Inside Out)


DELAYED BUT NOT DESTROYED! The most significant cultural milestone the world has ever seen (*citation needed*) returns with another episode of podcast goodness, as Saxon and Jehan brace themselves to discuss the charm, the colour and the emotional devastation of Pixar’s latest CG animated movie, Inside Out! How much of a return to form is this for Pixar? How well have they taken on the tricky subject of psychology? And exactly how much will this film make you cry? ALL THE ANSWERS LIE WITHIN!

Enjoy the podcast (please let us know in the comments if you do), and stay tuned for more episodes soon! And remember – you can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Share and Enjoy!

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Movie Analysis: The Politics of Tomorrowland or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying If Brad Bird is an Objectivist

Brad Bird at Tomorrowland Premiere

WARNING – some spoilers for Tomorrowland contained within.

Politics can be a divisive business, and it’s no surprise that a lot of people simply hate talking about it, especially when it comes to appreciating and enjoying art and media. But it’s equally true that it’s frequently a topic that can’t really be avoided, especially since so much of art, culture and human expression is inherently political, whether it means to be or not. When you’re a fan of the filmmaker Brad Bird – whose new film Tomorrowland is now playing in cinemas – avoiding politics is nigh-on impossible, and the resulting discussion can often be fractious and tricky to navigate.

Bird is, after all, an extremely political filmmaker, and one whose specific ideology has proven tough for many people to get to grips with, given its unexpected and unconventional nature. He’s primarily known as a purveyor of family entertainments – from his background as a Disney animator to his tenures on The Simpsons and at Pixar – and we’re used to mainstream family entertainments being relatively unchallenging in their political character, usually settling for broadly universal self-empowerment themes, with a dash of left-leaning acceptance and diversity messaging. That’s not really Bird’s style, though – he’s a much more overtly didactic filmmaker, and deviates from the standard script often enough that his philosophy has become distinctive, recognisable and – to a certain degree – controversial. With Tomorrowland, he’s released his most message-driven movie to date, which makes this a good time to have a look at what makes this supremely talented yet oddly divisive filmmaker tick.

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Schizopolitan: The Podcast – Episode 14 – The Avengers: Age of Ultron Megaspectacular

avengers age of ultron joss whedon hulk black widow quicksilver iron man captain america

SCHIZOPOLITANS ASSEMBLE! You’ve already had part one of the ultimate Marvel podcast double-bill, with our detailed look at the Daredevil Netflix show – and now, part two arrives! Thrill, as Saxon and Jehan engage in their most daring and dangerous mission yet – an in-depth and mega-spoilerific look at the whys, the wheres, and the what-the-hell-was-going-on-in-that-Cave-scene of the latest Marvel blockbuster, Avengers: Age of Ultron! Overstuffed plots! Strange visions, and a strange Vision! Hydra being surprisingly terrible! Andy Serkis! A robot James Spader! Has writer-director Joss Whedon outdone himself, or are the rougher edges of the Marvel formula starting to show? And can Saxon and Jehan ever reach a point where they won’t be talking about Marvel? ONLY TIME WILL TELL!

Enjoy the podcast (please let us know in the comments if you do), and stay tuned for more episodes soon! And remember – you can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Share and Enjoy!

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Schizopolitan – The Podcast: Episode 11 – Jupiter Ascending & The Wachowski Problem…

DELAYED BUT NOT DEFEATED! Technology and circumstances may have gotten in the way, but Schizopolitan has returned with a new episode, recorded two weeks ago but finally released for your listening pleasure! Here, Saxon and Jehan tackle the colourful and bizarre world of SF movie extravaganza Jupiter Ascending, the latest blockbuster from the writer/directors of the Matrix, and try to understand what exactly went wrong with it. Capitalism! Channing Tatum in rocket boots! Eddie Redmayne shouting at people! IT’S ALL HERE! Additionally, the comics recommendation of the podcast gives us a quick look at Marvel’s new line of Star Wars comics, and how they’re exploring the new world of the rebooted SW continuity in different and interesting ways.

Enjoy the podcast (please let us know in the comments if you do), and stay tuned for more episodes soon! And remember – you can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Share and Enjoy!

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Schizopolitan: The Podcast – Episode 2 – Guardians of the Galaxy

And we’re back! Our first podcast went better than we expected, we got some nice feedback from a few people, so here, for your delectation and bewilderment, is episode 2 of the Schizopolitan podcast, featuring 75 minutes of Saxon Bullock and Jehan Ranasinghe talking about stuff! This time we tried to be a little more structured, and spent most of the podcast discussing Marvel’s latest hit Guardians of the Galaxy, looking at the many aspects of the movie that worked surprisingly well, while also examining the parts that didn’t come off quite so effectively. (There are a few spoilers in what we talk about – nothing huge, mainly about story structure (especially as relating to big Marvel bad guy Thanos), but it probably helps if you have seen the film already, and it isn’t spoil-free.) After that, there’s also time for a short update on the first podcast’s discussion on Female Superheroes, as we examine Sony’s plans for a female-fronted superhero in the Spider-man universe and try to work out whether any of them have any chance of working…

Hope you enjoy the podcast (feel free to let us know in the comments if you do), and stay tuned for another episode in the not-too-distant future!

Also – you can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Follow this link to subscribe, and episode 2 should be available there relatively soon after this post goes live…

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Podcast: Schizopolitan – Episode 1 – The Saga Begins…

It’s been a long time, but Schizopolitan has risen from the grave… and this time we’re trying something a little different – presenting the SCHIZOPOLITAN PODCAST! I’ve teamed up with my friend and occasional collaborator Jehan Ranasinghe (on Twitter as @Maustallica) for what we’re hoping is going to be a regular series of podcasts looking at the world of Movies, TV, Animation, Games, Comics, and whatever else grabs our attention. It’s our first attempt at anything like this, so bear with us as we figure out various problems, wrestle with technical difficulties and generally ramble like there’s no tomorrow.

In this debut episode (running for 95 minutes), we use the recent aftermath of San Diego Comic Con to discuss some of the con’s announcements and reveals, but that soon spirals into a general discussion of blockbuster cinema in general – there’s talk about Star Wars and the new TV animated show Star Wars: Rebels, the first photo of the Wonder Woman costume and how much we know about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the potential upcoming DC Universe movies, and then a more wide-ranging talk about the ‘problem’ of a Female-fronted superhero blockbuster and why Hollywood seems so nervous about the idea…

Hope you enjoy our first episode, and stay tuned for more editions of Schizopolitan: The Podcast soon!

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Movie Trailer: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)


Blimey. Okay, given that I’m not going to be seeing the prologue for at least the next few days, this is my first proper glimpse of Christopher Nolan’s upcoming third Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, a blockbuster for which the phrase ‘hotly anticipated’ is an insane understatement. Nolan set himself a huge hurdle to leap with The Dark Knight, and it’s perfectly possible that the ludicrous levels of expectation may in some terms end up working against the film – but the trailer has gone live over at Apple (and is available in an embed below, which may or may not get yanked soon…) and what we’re seeing so far looks pretty damn impressive; certainly a massive improvement over the “Oh crap, we’d better throw together a couple of shots along with a sequence of Gary Oldman mumbling incoherently in a bed” teaser trailer we got a few months ago:

From advance reaction to the prologue, it looks like one of the more divisive elements (unless there’s some serious fiddling happening in the next few months) is going to be Bane’s voice – and the one line we get here isn’t exactly the model of intelligibility, but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

And while we don’t get a full look at that controversial costume, we do get to see Anne Hathaway in action as Selina Kyle (including an oh-so-appropriate mask), and as I suspected, whatever she may be wearing, it looks like Hathaway is going to be giving a seriously impressive performance as Catwoman. There’s eye-candy here, and spectacle (which promises to be pretty amazing in the IMAX format, especially considering the film will feature almost fifty minutes of IMAX footage) – although, as with the first The Dark Knight trailer, and almost all the publicity for Inception, there’s very few signs of exactly how this all fits together – but what’s really surprising is exactly how political that speech from Selina Kyle feels. It’s one of those moments where art accidentally coincides with real life (after all, the screenplay for The Dark Knight Rises would have been finished long before the Occupy movement got going), but it certainly looks like Nolan isn’t backing away from melding real life issues with superhero action in the same way he did with The Dark Knight. On top of everything, there’s some very interesting hints at how time has moved on for all the characters, and a general sense that whatever happens, even if The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t top The Dark Knight, Nolan is currently at the top of his game and would probably have to really try hard to completely mess this up. Whatever happens, July 2012 feels like a very long time away right now…


Movie Review: Immortals (2011)

Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans ~ Writers: Charley Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides ~ Director: Tarsem Singh

Immortals Movie Poster Henry Cavill Tarsem Singh 2011[xrr rating=3/5]

Reviewer: Saxon Bullock (aka @saxonb)

The Low-Down: A ridiculously stylised and deeply demented flipside to last year’s Clash of the Titans, Immortals is a barmy mix of mythology, action and borderline insane costume design that packs in some unexpected pleasures for those willing to go along with such a seriously kooky approach.

What’s it About?: Thousands of years ago in ancient Greece, a conflict took place between two warring groups of immortal beings. The defeated, named the Titans, were imprisoned beneath Mount Tartarus, while the victors, naming themselves ‘Gods’, now rule over the world but are forbidden to interfere in the fate of mankind. However, the Heraclian king Hyperion (Rourke) is on a vengeful quest to bring down the Gods, and the only man able to stop him may be humble peasant Theseus (Cavill)…

The Story: (A brief note – Immortals was shot in native 3-D, but as I’ve recently been having major problems watching 3-D movies (and prefer not to get headaches and eye-strain at the cinema), the 2-D version is the one under review.)

For someone who’s only notched up three directorial credits so far, Tarsem Singh is ending up as a seriously divisive filmmaker. Right from his movie debut, the 2000 serial killer thriller The Cell, he’s showcased a deliberately sumptuous, lush and in-your-face approach to visuals, costume design and filmmaking technique that there’s absolutely no middle ground on – you either get swept along by his almost theatrical approach to visualising fantastic sequences on film, or you find his whole ethos deeply annoying and ludicrous in the extreme. Now, eleven years later (and with his only other movie inbetween being the quirkily weird and beautiful low-budget drama The Fall, which Singh mostly self-financed with his lucrative work in the commercials sector), he’s made a return to big budget filmmaking, and there’s absolutely no sign of him backing away from his idiosyncratic visual stylings – in fact, Immortals takes the lush insanity of the fantasy sequences in The Cell and The Fall and pushes it even further than before.

Immortals 2011 Tarsem Singh Henry Cavill MinotaurThe result is a mythological actioner that basically functions as a style-over-substance fever dream, a lush and barmy journey into a world where normal rules of cinematic reality don’t apply. Anyone going into Immortals expecting a 300-style tale of throbbing manliness is largely going to be disappointed – while Henry Cavill looks admirably heroic with his shirt off and there are a selection of very well-realised traditional combat sequences, the limb-lopping, bone-crunching violence is more influenced by Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy than Snyder’s testosterone-soaked opus. Added to which, with its approach to mythology, Immortals frequently plays like a creature-free, gory version of a 1960s Ray Harryhausen adventure, tackling its story of gods and men with an admirably po-faced level of seriousness. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a fantasy actioner that’s been this deliberately portentious and stony-faced since John Milius’s Nietzche-influenced take on Conan the Barbarian, and the melange of accents and acting styles, along with the truly bizarre approach to costumes and visuals (with the strongest visual reference being 16th Century painter Caravaggio), all gives the film a wonderfully rich and exotic sense of mythic oddness.

This bizarre blend also includes the approach to the story, and while Singh has an amazing eye for visuals, with Immortals embracing even more than 300 the idea of making greenscreen movies deliberately artificial, the story doesn’t always hang together. Weirdly enough, at various points the movie is both a remix of Greek myth and a ‘realistic interpretation’ – we get intertitles informing us of specific dates and locations, and Theseus’s showdown with the bull-helmeted ‘Beast’ soldier is obviously meant to be the beginning of the legend of the Minotaur, and yet the film also plays the mythology as completely real. This is absolutely a film that’s at least attempting to tackle what it means when Gods mess about with human lives, but it’s only fitfully successful in doing this, while also showing a weird habit of building up strong conflicts only to either abandon or forget about them.

Freida Pinto Immortals Tarsem Singh 2011Lysander (Joseph Morgan), the traitorous soldier who sells out Theseus’s village (and is also the victim of one of the more memorable and eye-watering moments of baroque violence) is built up throughout as a relatively important character, only to be abruptly dispatched with little ceremony in the climax, while oracle Phaedra (Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto) is given a potentially major problem – she’ll lose her powers of prophecy if she loses her virginity – but then hops into bed with Theseus halfway through the story and spends the rest of the film as window dressing. The story of Theseus really boils down to a fairly predictable hero’s journey, as he’s maneuvered into place by fate, destiny and the actions of the Gods, and the film never quite comes to grips with one of the biggest features and problems of Greek myths – keeping dramatic tension going when, at any moment, powerful deities can turn up and deliver stunningly realised ultraviolence at the drop of a hat.

Immortals 2011 Tarsem Singh Zeus and the GodsOf course, in a film that features more than its fair share of exotic, eccentric and downright insane costume choices (particularly Hyperion’s natty giant lobster-claw hat), the weirdest and probably most divisive choices are kept for the Gods themselves. Presented as fey, ludicrously beautiful fashion models swanning around Mount Olympus in massive gold cloaks and headgear that boggles the mind (especially Apollo and his spiked-mohican helmet), they’re a gigantic distance from the usual portrayal of Greek gods – and yet, it’s almost as if they’re a deliberate litmus test, that Singh is pushing his love of operatic theatricality as far as it will go and challenging the audience to keep up, making the Gods seem exotic, weird and oddly inhuman in a way that doesn’t involve using CG (a device he only really uses to transform landscapes and create insanely over-the-top violence). It’s a stylistic choice that manages to be utterly ridiculous and yet weirdly effective and powerful at the same time, especially in the final battle, where the Gods are finally pitched against the bestial, dog-like Titans, and suddenly those perfect bodies are being subjected to all kinds of blood-soaked gory violence.

Immortals isn’t a film to look to for a traditional, expected version of Greek mythology, and what it tries to say is somewhat muddled by Singh’s sheer determination to make everything subservient to the wonderfully weird visual atmosphere he’s building. The performances vary wildly, with Rourke and Cavill feeling like they’re in different films, although Cavil does acquit himself well – aside from a woeful rousing pre-battle speech – and shows enough screen presence to make him an intriguing choice for the upcoming new Superman film. Rourke’s natural sense of mumbling menace is occasionally effective, although it’s hard not to think Hyperion would have been an even more effective villain with half as many scenes, and his climactic fight with Theseus seems to go on for at least five minutes too long before his absurdly protracted death.

Immortals Henry Cavill Tarsem Singh 2011But ultimately, this isn’t an actor’s film – it’s a fantasy romp and a visual feast that’s so deliberately off-the-wall that for some, the emphasis on surreally theatrical eye candy is either going to be too much or boring in the extreme. Once again, there’s no middle ground on Singh’s sword-and-sandals epic, and yet while 300 is undoubtedly more focussed and direct, Immortals is weirder, more textured, less grotesquely right-wing, and ultimately a hell of a lot more interesting. Tarsem Singh may have a genuinely great film in him somewhere (although, from the looks of the recently released trailer, it certainly isn’t his next project, the dreadful-looking fairy tale comedy Mirror, Mirror), or he may be destined to remain a filmmaker who dazzles the eyes while never quite mastering the art of balancing the style with substance. However, for the moment, he’s made a fantasy action adventure that’s nuttier and more visually bizarre than anything else on the market, and with most Hollywood blockbusters going out of their way to be as bland and homogenous as possible, that’s at least something to be applauded.

The Verdict: The best example of visual style balancing out muddy storytelling since Tron: Legacy, Immortals is undoubtedly a brutal, eccentric and frequently ridiculous movie – and yet, there’s something about its single-minded determination to deliver visual weirdness that’s ultimately quite beguilling. A mess, but a visually stunning and weirdly compelling mess all the same.

Movie Trailer – The Hunger Games (2012)

If you haven’t heard of The Hunger Games yet, treasure that feeling – it’s unlikely to last very long. With the Harry Potter series having come to an end, and the death-rattle of the Twilight Saga already beginning with the release of Part 1 of Breaking Dawn, Hollywood is desperate to generate another hugely popular multi-volume teen franchise. Given the excitement that already exists around teen dystopia series The Hunger Games (and its two sequels), the upcoming movie adaptation isn’t much of a surprise, and anyone following movie news websites for the last twelve months will have been deluged by reports and rumours about casting of the various characters, making it pretty certain that even if The Hunger Games isn’t the next Twilight (in terms of impact), it’s going to be pretty damn close.

Now, the first trailer is out for the movie adaptation, directed by Gary Ross (who hasn’t directed a film for nearly nine years (horseriding drama Seabiscuit in 2003), although he’s had a major reputation as a screenwriter ever since 1986’s Big)… and I’m actually kind of impressed. The story of teenagers chosen by the government to compete in a fight to the death, it’s essentially a teen-centric fusion of The Running Man and Battle Royale, and there’s certainly a healthy dose of kookiness in the costume design and general appearance of The Hunger Games’s future world (especially in the wonderfully eccentric names – with everything from Peeta Mellark to Haymitch Abernathy). The trailer certainly isn’t without its cheesy moments, but the casting looks pretty strong – especially Jennifer Lawrence, who was exceptional in the drama Winter’s Bone and did a wonderful job as a youthful Mystique in this summer’s X-Men: First Class – and the restless, hand-held visual style actually looks like it’s going to give the film a healthy amount of edge. The fact that it’s aiming at the Twilight-related market means there’s going to be a number of people lining up to rip the hell out of The Hunger Games at the first opportunity, but I’m now genuinely interested to see how it turns out. The only question is – do I read the books first to see how it measures up, or leave myself unspoiled? Only time will tell…

Movie Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones ~ Writer: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan ~ Director: Tomas Alfredson

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Poster 2011 Gary Oldman Tomas Alfredson John Le Carre[xrr rating=4.5/5]

Reviewer: Jehan Ranasinghe (aka @Maustallica)

The Low-Down: Detached, clinical and brooding, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes full use of the embarrassing wealth of talent at its disposal to deliver an absorbing, intelligent and admirably restrained espionage thriller.

What’s it About?: During the height of the Cold War, British intelligence veteran George Smiley (Gary Oldman) finds himself shunted out of MI6 after his mentor Control (John Hurt) – suspecting that a Soviet mole has infiltrated the organisation – spearheads a disastrous mission in Budapest. However, Smiley’s retirement ends abruptly when overseas agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) returns to the UK with information: the mole is real, and is operating undercover at the very highest level. It falls to Smiley to investigate and flush out the enemy hiding right under MI6’s nose…

The Story: It’s tempting when regarding a film such as Tinker Tailor Solider Spy to kid yourself that what it accomplishes is easy, or that it’s something you can in some way take for granted. It is, after all, a project which seemed to have everything going for it from the very start; a stellar cast, an acclaimed director and the template of one of Britain’s best-known spy thrillers to work from. Surely all that needs doing from there is to show up on set, flick the cameras on and let the magic happen; job’s a good ‘un, right?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Still 2011 Benedict Cumberbatch Gary Oldman Tomas Alfredson John Le CarreWell, no. Film history is littered with the corpses of would-be prestige pictures – Steven Zaillian’s All the King’s Men and Joe Wright’s The Soloist spring to mind in recent years – which seemed starred for fame and acclaim due to the their lavishly-assembled personnel, only to underwhelm and disappoint when finally arriving in cinemas. So we must give dues, then, to director Tomas Alfredson and his collaborators on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a work that showcases all-star filmmaking at its very best: an overflowing array of hugely talented individuals coming together for a genuine team effort, each willing to share responsibility for delivering a film of near-undeniable quality and class, one that lives up to its pedigree with room to spare.

Given the nature of that pedigree, that’s no mean feat. As noted, the 1974 novel is an established classic of its genre, calling on author John le Carré’s real-life secret service experience to create a tense and brooding potboiler; more pressure still is added by enduring memories of the equally iconic 1979 BBC television adaptation, which saw Sir Alec Guinness turn George Smiley into one of the most closely-associated roles of his illustrious career. Both the book and TV series have the key advantage over the film of not only getting there first, but also having far more time and leeway to explore the languorous intricacies of this most low-octane of spy stories, in which espionage is carried out via mumbled, shifty conversations involving dour men with briefcases, rather than lantern-jawed beefcakes in tuxedos.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Still 2011 Colin Firth Gary Oldman Tomas Alfredson John Le CarreAs it transpires, the 2011 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy shows very few signs of intimidation about the presumably pitfall-laden adaptation process, aggressively trimming material that covered almost seven hours on TV into a disciplined 127 minutes. What results is a film that moves at a brisk, occasionally disorienting pace through methodical exposition, bubbling tension and undercurrents of character drama. Action junkies will find nothing to sate them here; throughout, the film maintains a languid, stifled atmosphere, with little in the way of flashpoints or adrenaline spikes. But that isn’t to say there’s nothing going on; on the contrary, it’s incredibly fleet of foot in story terms, hopping between different perspectives and frequent flashbacks as it diligently assembles the pieces of le Carré’s narrative puzzle. A side effect of this is that the audience sometimes has to move faster than they might anticipate in order to keep up, but there’s very little here that feels overly unclear, even without in-depth knowledge of the material.

Besides, those who do feel lost during this journey will at least have some high-calibre travelling companions to smooth things over. Again, the pedigree of this cast will lead some to take the quality on offer for granted, but it’s still worth giving credit to the assembled talent for performing so unselfishly in low-key roles that are largely free of fireworks. Typically alpha-male presences like Mark Strong and Tom Hardy show they’re prepared to work hard with slightly more passive and introspective characters; Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch add splashes of rakish colour; Toby Jones and Ciaran Hinds, meanwhile, inject much-needed presence into characters who otherwise would have come perilously close to being underwritten, considering their key roles in the overall mystery.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Still 2011 Gary Oldman Tomas Alfredson John Le CarreFittingly, however, it’s the top-billed names from in front of and behind the camera that prove to be Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s greatest assets. As Smiley, Gary Oldman clearly recognises that he’s been handed a potential milestone role in his career, just as it was for Guinness; as a result, it’s hard to recall him ever being better. Oldman’s Smiley is a performance that creeps up on you, a seemingly passive, soft-spoken and unexplosive presence that gradually radiates more power as the film progresses. Observing events quietly through unfashionable bifocals, Oldman slowly seizes control of the film from his illustrious co-stars with piercing gazes and measured delivery, with Smiley’s taciturn single-mindedness bringing to mind some kind of investigative Terminator.

Aiding and abetting Oldman is the work of Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, the film’s other main weapon and the secret ingredient in what could have been a rather conventional stew. Making his English-language debut, there was no guarantee that the Let the Right One In helmer’s talents would translate; happily, he acquits himself with distinction, with his drained yet striking palette, ice-cold atmospherics and clinical sense of detachment proving vital in interweaving Smiley’s character with that of his world. Alfredson’s Cold War-era London is a muted and paranoid environment, with the sense of unease only increasing as the threads of le Carré’s story come together and are pulled taut.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Still 2011 Gary Oldman Tomas Alfredson John Le CarreIn fact, if there’s one overriding disappointment about the film, it’s that this admirable slow-burn tension-building never really gets the payoff it deserves. This is very much a film that’s much more about the journey and the process than the final destination, and there’s plenty to be said for that; still, when Smiley’s carefully laid trap finally closes on the villain, it’s with a gentle creak rather than the sharp snap one might expect, leading to an inescapable sense of slight anticlimax. That’s not to accuse the film of needing anything so crass and sensationalist as a last-minute rug-pull or “gotcha!” moment, but it’s hard to imagine many audience members feeling much sense of surprise at the end of this mystery, even ones who haven’t anticipated the outcome.

Despite this, it seems churlish to suggest that many people are likely to exit Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with feelings of disappointment. Naturally, personal taste and mileage will vary with a genre piece of this kind, but it’s hard to recall another major film released this year with such an indisputable level of craftsmanship, skill, intelligence and sheer quality. With any justice, this film should solidify Alfredson’s place as one of the hottest directorial prospects of the moment and could potentially snare Oldman his first Oscar nomination; indeed, with numerous other le Carré books to work with, it may also herald the start of a potentially exciting new franchise. And if none of that comes to pass, then we’ll at least have this smart, clinical and exceptionally adult thriller as consolation.

The Verdict: Brilliantly constructed, sharp as a tack and featuring a magnetic central performance, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a film that’s every bit the sum of its parts. And when the parts are this good, that’s more than enough to qualify as a major triumph.