[Reviews] Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Drive

urrently holding 93% and 97% respectively, on Rotten Tomatoes. Drive and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy have become two of the most critically successful films of 2011.

Prior to its release on 16th September, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy had been on radar for a long time, ever since the cast was being announced. Headed by Gary Oldman, the cast also boasts a range of British talent including Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy and Toby Jones.

Drive, on the other hand, I knew very little about. Out in the UK on the 23rd September, it wasn’t until Empire Presents… BIG SCREEN, held 12th-14th August, that I found out about it. Not being a particular fan of Ryan Gosling – previously I’d only seen him in The Notebook –  it had slipped unnoticed…

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy

” In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley (Oldman) is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6’s echelons” – IMDb.

With a stellar cast and beautiful cinematography, there is much to like about Alfredson’s TTSS. With film lovers flocking to see it in their thousands – not yet released in the US, it has currently grossed £9 million in the UK alone – it has received very positive reviews.

I may be a bit controversial in saying this, but I was most impressed by the performances of Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy, Cumberbatch especially. Having only previously seen him in a handful of things – including Starter for 10, which I reviewed here – I thought he was fantastic.

However, I was left a little dissatisfied. This could be due to many things, including the fact that I tend to enjoy more complicated thrillers like TTSS and Inception at home, where I can check with the person that I’m watching it with that I’m up to speed. Perhaps I’ll enjoy it more on a second viewing.

I also came to it knowing nothing of John le Carré ‘s novel or the 1979 television series starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley. I was hoping – perhaps expecting is a better word – for more action and more drama. To me, it all seemed pretty tame – words, not actions, are Smiley’s weapon of choice…

★★★½

Drive (2011)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston

“A Hollywood stunt performer (Gosling) who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong”- IMDb.

After reading Scott’s review over at Front Room Cinema as well as seeing the lovefest Gosling was getting on Twitter from some of  my fellow bloggers – apparently they’re calling themselves the ‘Gaggle of Goslings‘ – I booked my ticket as soon as it was released.

Happily, I can report that I was not disappointed. Gosling’s performance is very, very good and he is ably supported by Bryan Cranston and Carey Mulligan. Previously, I had only seen Gosling in The Notebook and Blue Valentine, the latter being a rental that I watched a few days before seeing Drive. Post-Drive and I have added Half Nelson, Fracture and Lars and the Real Girl to my LOVEFiLM rental list – I want to see what else this boy has done.

With a retro, electronic sounding soundtrack and the bright lights of Los Angeles providing its backdrop, it is a feast for the ears as well as eyes – the opening scene, which featured a panoramic view of the city and was accompanied by Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’, looked beautiful on the big screen. To say it has been influenced by 1980s cinema is an understatement.

Enough about the ambience, though. The film is about Driver’s ability to do just that: drive. In parts it reminded me of 1968’s Bullitt and 2007’s Death Proof. Driver’s own car, which I think is a 1973 Chevrolet Malibu, isn’t particularly noteworthy – it doesn’t hold the same iconic status as the Ford Mustang, the Jaguar E-Type or the Pontiac Firebird – but then again, from the outside, neither is Driver. Little is revealed about his history and his name is never revealed – just how did he come to be such a superb driver?

★★★★½

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21 thoughts on “[Reviews] Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Drive”

  1. A great dual-review! I am interested in TTSS and am glad to hear that you are bold enough to like Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, and others as the better performances (sad news again for Gary Oldman). Can’t wait to see it myself.

    Glad you liked Drive too. I did, but probably won’t be seeing it again soon. Like you, I want to go back and watch more of his previous work.

    1. Thanks, T. Oldman was very good but I thought Cumberbatch, Hardy and Strong put on stronger performances. I hope you enjoy it.

      We’ll have to compare Gosling’s other films when we see them!

  2. Nicely done my best bud!!

    I am so happy you liked Drive as much (nearly) as me. I still have not seen TTSS….eeek!!

    I can’t wait for you to see LARS, brilliant film

    Thanks for the link!

  3. Hi, Claire and company:

    Excellent review!

    I’ve seen your comments on many of the sites I visit and kind of wandered over here from Scott’s FRC to get your point of view on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I’m anxious to see the film for its cast and story and to compare it to the Sir Alec Guinness original mini-series.

    There is a lot more meat, drama, agendas and political skullduggery in the mini-series. So I’m curious to see what’s stripped down for the film while enjoying its equally top tier cast.

    1. Hi Jack, thanks for stopping by.

      To be honest, I thought it had been stripped right back and that certain scenes – you see Smiley swimming quite a lot – would have had more meaning within the mini-series and book.

      When are you planning on seeing it at the cinema?

  4. VERY nice write up, Claire. I’m highly anticipating TTSS and despite some of the less-than-stellar reviews, I’m still very curious about it. As for DRIVE, it’ll likely end up being a rental for me.

    “Not being a particular fan of Ryan Gosling – previously I’d only seen him in The Notebook…” I feel exactly the same way, and truthfully, all this love and adulation poured on him lately actually turns me off a bit, not his fault though, I’m sure he’s very talented.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. Are you planning on seeing TTSS? I think it’s out in a few weeks in the US, isn’t it?

      Gosling was very good in Drive but I want to see him in some other films before I join in on the adulation 😀

      1. Hey Claire, no unfortunately TTSS isn’t out until December in the US 😦 Oh yes I’m planning to see it on opening night!

        As for Gosling, I think all the adulation and crazy hype around him actually turns me off a bit. I was a bit curious about him at first but now not so much. I kind of prefer Brits and Aussies anyway when it comes to actors, ahah.

  5. I dare to call myself a film critic and still haven’t seen either film. I just don’t get to the cinema enough these days.

    My work colleague has declared Drive the film of the year so that has gone to the top of my wish list. Tinker Tailor is one I really want to see because of Gary Oldman.

    Excellent reviews Claire…I think you’ve convinced me to get my ass over to the cinema and see these two before they disappear.

  6. I’m looking forward to TTSS but my main fear seems to be confirmed, that it’s mainly going to be all talk and little action. It already seems that way from the trailer 😦

    As for Drive, glad you appreciated it! The moody ambiance is second to none and it’s just so beautifully crafted in all aspects. I absolutely am in love with it.

    1. There is more talk than action, which is why I think I might enjoy it more on a second viewing. Hopefully I’d be able to follow it a bit more and understand the subtly…

      Drive was a breath of fresh air and very enjoyable – I’ve still got the soundtrack playing in my car!

  7. I still haven’t seen Drive. I think I’m reacting badly to all the hype and the uber-Gosling love. Having said that I thought he was great in Fracture so I should stop being so reactionary and get round to actually watching it.

  8. These two movies were easily in my top 5 most anticipated this Fall. Until ‘TTSS’ got delayed till who knows when here in the US. I’m okay with it being tame, but with all the ‘okay’ reviews for it I should probably adjust my expectations going into it.

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