Capsule Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

***Is about as convoluted a plot as anyone could wish for. This is a subtle film with so many nuanced looks and character references one must keep track of every tic and blink that passes from eye to eye.

This is also the type of film that makes me wonder if there is going to be a coming “great divide” in this country between age groups who watch movies. There are films for a certain age that I know my 21 year old niece refuses to watch. The Black & White & low-tech films of yore are not high on her list.

On the other hand, the girl with a Dragon Tattoo is someone that she can easily identify with. I thought that I, a middle-aged woman, would not be able to identify with this character. But in the way of cinematic magic, there is a universal element that everyone who has been dumped or has been alone or has been asked to fend for him or herself can find in this vulnerable yet hardened young woman.

In “Tinker, Tailor”, we are back to the low-tech world of the early 70’s and the Cold War era where all eavesdropping requires elaborately placed listening devices and the real world of James Bond emerges. There is nothing remotely similar to the antics of the comic-book action figure that Mr. Bond has become. This world is inhabited by quiet men in tweedy suits wearing unassuming expressions with glassy stares.

I must admit that there are a few moments that teeter on the edge of attention-deficit danger in the middle of the film. But the plot is definitely one where all lovers of mystery and good story-telling will want to know how it all ties together in the end. It is simply convoluted, if it is possible to be both simple in technological jargon yet convoluted in the realm of sophisticated dialogue and plot.

With the low-tech world nicely portrayed in this and the recent “Killer Elite”, we are forced to remember what the world was like before Tom Cruise gave us Mission Impossible to the nth degree and only high-technology will do to entertain the mass viewing audience.

We are still expected to think and therefore, the old fashioned Sherlock Holmes-ian style of critical analysis and logical thinking applies here. We must do our homework for this film, and that, in the end, is a good thing!

Grumpy Old Critic on War Horse

My father became very jaded about movies in his later life. He seemed to think there was nothing new under the sun and that the best movies made were already completed by 1939. I hope I don’t go that far (although he could have been right), but there is a tendency for us old folk to get jaded about these young whippersnappers and their confounded new-fangled way of doing things.

Hence the term: “Grumpy Old Critics”

There’s something so bothersome in films and some of the clichés. One of them is the dog and cat metaphors. We always know there is evil lurking when the obligatory scene of the dead pet-be it dog or cat-is shown to the audience to let us know to beware.

Just once, just once, I ask, will they let the poor dumb G-Damn animal LIVE till the end of the film?! The latest I speak of, lest I spoil anyone’s shock and horror, is found in the film, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

The film is quite good, and yet they felt the need to broadcast the evildoer’s intentions with the death of a domestic animal. There are so many things in this film that I did NOT see coming, but that was not one of them…

“War Horse” was painful to watch for several reasons. I drank too much liquid and really was in pain. There was a child in a stroller, a toddler, behind me that was sobbing and that child really should not have been in the picture.

I also feel something for those of us who are animal lovers to the point of being dotty. I am one of those nuts. And after seeing Old Yeller die, and Bambi’s mother, and the Yearling die, and all the animals in “Dances with Wolves” go, then you become not hard-hearted but instead completely unable to watch another innocent animal suffer. Not to spoil the film, (don’t read this if you haven’t seen War Horse and think the ending must be secret), but I’m very glad the animal does not die.

However, I am beginning to think that there is no situation where an innocent child or animal is abused or treated cruelly that can be spinned in a positive light. In other words, I’ve seen two movies for younger audiences that I couldn’t possibly recommend for children. (Hugo was the other one.)

Adults such as myself have a hard time with sappy animal films. But those who are not yet fully developed emotionally probably shouldn’t see this film. It’s about war and death and violence and suffering. Yet there’s a beautiful animal in the midst and a plucky young kid right out of “National Velvet” who believes in him.

So…..I just can’t resign myself to believe this is a good children’s movie.