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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Spy master John La Carre’ wrote seven novels featuring George Smiley the head of British intelligence agency MI6, the “Circus”, during the Cold War. The final three novels put Karla, head of Moscow’s spy ring, in opposition to Smiley. If director Tomas Alfredson’s cinematic interpretation of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is successful perhaps the other two, “The Honorable Schoolboy: and “Smiley’s People” will follow.  (Television viewers may recall Alec Guinness in the BBC version of this new film.)
 
Gary Oldman plays Smiley who is forced into retirement when a British agent’s plan to bring in a key contact in Budapest ends in disaster. Word is out that there is a mole in the Circus and when the agents fail to discover him, Smiley is brought back to work his spy magic and reveal the traitor.
 
The inspiration for La Carre’s stories is based on “The Cambridge Five”, British citizens who spied for Moscow during the 1950s and 1960s.
 
I have never found La Carre’ spy stories particularly easy to read, so I have not read the Smiley series. I seem to always get lost in his convoluted plots.  “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” as a film, however, is a dark thriller told through flashbacks and flash forwards that held my attention all the way through.  Spying was a more simple craft in the days when there were only two super powers trying to outwit the other, each with a finger on atomic weapons. There is a twist in the film that adds an emotional dimension that reflects the Cambridge connection again.
 
Ultimately the theme is about patriotism, loyalty, and betrayal on the level of the individual and one’s country, and between countries with the same goals. It is very well acted and worthy of seeing for the performances and quality of direction if nothing else. I think the appeal is to fans of La Carre’ and anyone who is nostalgic for the old days of the Cold War genre in literature and film. It was an era that gave rise to the global situation today that is far more volatile and dangerous and solutions complicated by unbridled globalization that marginalizes the poor and makes borders meaningless.
 
-SPOILER ALERT-
  But here’s the problem with “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” as a movie. If you load a film with a cast made up of the usual suspects, that is, the most recognizable actors in British cinema today, you will know within the first ten minutes or less who the bad guy is – just by process of elimination.  It is still an okay movie; it’s just that filmmakers have to realize that audiences are a lot smarter than they think we are. The Cold War is pretty old hat, though a good mystery always satisfies.


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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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