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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

David Dencik and Gary Oldman star in the thriller "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."
There's a double agent on the loose, and seemingly no one can be trusted in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (Focus), a faithful adaptation of John le Carre's best-selling 1974 novel.

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson ("Let the Right One In") sets a deliberately slow pace, especially for an espionage thriller, demanding the viewer's full attention as he introduces pieces of the puzzle and juggles multiple characters and story lines, many told in flashback. It's a journey that's labyrinthine and sometimes confusing, disturbing and often gruesome, and it leads to a morally ambiguous resolution.

The time is 1973, more than 25 years into the Cold War between East and West. At Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, code-named "The Circus," panic is rising. The chief, known as Control (John Hurt), fears that a double agent has infiltrated the highest ranks of the organization and is feeding vital state secrets to the Soviets.

Determined to ferret out the "rotten apple" and plug the "leaky ship," Control dispatches one of his agents, Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong), to Hungary to meet someone who claims to know the mole's identity. The rendezvous is a disaster, and Control lays the blame on his top lieutenant, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), who is consequently sacked.

Smiley, a deep thinker and man of few words, is not out of work for long, though.

Unbeknownst to Control and his colleagues at the Circus, Smiley is rehired by the government to find that troublesome traitor. He identifies four high-ranking Circus suspects: Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), code-named "Tinker"; Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), the "Tailor"; Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), the "Soldier"; and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), the "Poor Man."

Gaining the help of younger agent Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch)—who has issues of his own —Smiley embarks on a sophisticated game of cat and mouse, revisiting the demons of his own past while uncovering the hidden lives of his fellow spies.

Things go from simmer to boil when a rogue agent named Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) contacts Smiley and claims to have vital information—even though Tarr himself was once suspected of being a double agent.

With its stimulating conversations and lengthy ruminations, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is more cerebral than graphic. But the inclusion of the elements listed below nonetheless severely circumscribes its appropriate audience.

The film contains bloody violence including gunplay and torture, a scene of nonmarital sexual activity, brief rear nudity, a homosexual reference and some profane and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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