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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

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.
  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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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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