So I decided to partake in a mystery/thriller double feature, watching the Ides of March last night and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy tonight and, while doing a combined review is sort of like comparing apples and pineapples, I’m going to do it anyway.
I assumed going into Ides of March that I would like it; I generally do like movies within the political genre and I’m not going to say the movie fell flat, but it did leave me wanting in some way. It was a “serviceable” flick, to use a term my furnace guy just used to describe my duct work – not the best, but by no mean the worst political drama I’ve ever seen with an ensemble cast, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, and Ryan Gosling, all turning in decent to strong performances. I think the problem is that director George Clooney was aiming for political thriller and landed in political drama – by no means a bad place to land, but still short of the target. In addition, the plot twists weren’t really that twisty. The plot was in fact pretty predictable. (SPOILERS!) I mean, c’mon, George Clooney running in the Democratic primary for president, of course he slept with the intern. Just, of course. That being said, Ryan Gosling turned in a strong performance. It is no wonder there was some Oscar hype around his performance as Stevie, a political spin doctor and media consultant – who spins from idealistic crusader to morally bankrupt cynic in the span of a day. The key to carrying the audience with the story was to make that particular 180 believable, and Gosling just manages to pull it off. It took some real talent to carry off passable material in a stark movie and keep the audience invested so, for Gosling’s performance alone, I’d say add this one to your queue!
Now Tinker Tailor is another matter altogether. If Mr. Clooney ever wants some tips on how to really carry off good intrigue, he should check this movie out. (I assume he has already as Gary Oldman is the competition come Oscar night.) While Gary Oldman is nominated for Best Actor for his performance as George Smiley, it seems unlikely that he’ll win the category, but I am certainly glad to see him – and the screenplay – get the nomination. It is a common balancing act that the Best Actor category tends to carry and one that the last two years has pitted subtle performances by Colin Firth against more emotional and easier to judge performances. But I firmly believe that portraying the subtleties on screen and making it believable is usually the bigger feat and Gary Oldman does just that. As an ousted spy in the “circus”, MI6, Gary Oldman never shows his cards, but somehow the audience knows that he sees everything and knows even more. The wheels are always turning in Mr. Smiley’s head and it is palpable. Speaking of Colin Firth, his performance is also stellar and understated as Bill Hayden, another MI6 agent. To be fair, I don’t think their was bad performance in the movie, perhaps a tribute to director Tomas Alfredson. Another tribute to the filmmaker is his ability to hold the film just on this side of dingy, instead keeping the atmosphere of the film gritty, tense, and believable. At the end of the day, while everything seems to be wrapped up neat and tidy, one can’t help wondering if this hasn’t all been a long con and that maybe Mr. Smiley still knows more than he let on. All in all, I’d say this one is worth the full price of admission at the theater.
Posted by Sarah on 1/26/12 (but I expect Doug will add his $0.02)