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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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<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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