[CAUTION: Spoiler Alert!]
Having watched ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ by Tomas Alfredson in the cinema in 2011 when it was first released, I hit record straight away as soon as I noticed it playing on Channel 4 last week. A thrilling film about George Smiley (Gary Oldman) trying to uncover a Soviet mole within MI6 during the Cold War, and going to extreme lengths to prove it, ‘Tinker Tailor’ explores a number of themes can still be seen as relevant today.
As a lover of deep and meaningful films which keep you on your toes and have you wondering about them for days afterwards, ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ is right up my street. However, watching it for the second time allowed me to delve deeper into its labyrinth, which got me thinking… What a suspicious and paranoid world we live in?
This paranoia can be seen not just in terms of society as a whole, but also as human beings. Although ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ makes for great viewing at a basic level, when you look beyond the surface of the film you can see how truly distrustful people were in the Cold War and some of this suspicion and paranoia can still be seen today.
For example, from the very outset of the film Control (John Hurt) believes there is a mole within the agency and that he is being targeted personally. It can be argued it is human nature to be defensive and wary but this behaviour was typical of the Cold War era shown in the film. However, it takes it a little too far to perceive everyone as dangers but somehow we manage it in today’s world. I, myself, had an incident only a week ago when two men began to chat with me at a bus stop, whilst looking me up and down indecently. Now, I should have politely chuckled accepting it as just banter and move along; yet I tried to fold myself away into the smallest crevice on the bus, jumped at the slightest sound and proceeded to be paranoid that they were following me for the rest of the afternoon. I overreacted and thought they were my enemy, when that might have been their idea of friendly chatter.
It is the same with society in general, in the Cold War and nowadays. Some people overreact and are constantly looking over their shoulders for the next threat, which is what Control does until he got shot (looks like he was right after all). The Cold War was never fought directly, only by the Russians and Americans gathering intelligence on each other and then playing chicken with it. We never know who we’re fighting, so we end up paranoid and suspecting everyone instead. In the film no one knows who the mole is, so everyone is the mole until proven otherwise. Everyone is the enemy.
I think there was a stereotypical society during the Cold War, where every American who came across a Russian would have perceived them to be the enemy and vice versa; you could say a very similar situation happening today in the War on Terror. The film plays on the stereotypes by not giving much away about any of the suspects; it is all about perception and the audience is made to question the culprit during this film.
It’s fear. Simple, cold blooded fear. Fear of a mole, fear of losing an intelligence war, fear of men at bus stops. The list is endless. The trick of a good film is to play on the audiences’ emotions and ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ does that. It opens up a Pandora’s box of human pit falls and uses them to its advantage, leaving you looking over your shoulder, yet again, for when your next ‘enemy’ shall appear.