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Originally published December 22, 2011 at 6:11 AM | Page modified December 22, 2011 at 6:11 AM

Scarecrow Video recommendations for 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

There are a lot of films coming out in the next week or so. The holiday week is unusually packed, with releases of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "The Adventures of Tintin," "We Bought a Zoo," (which would be a better title with a question mark at the end...We Bought a Zoo?), "A Dangerous Method," "War Horse," and the film currently expected to be the Oscar frontrunner, "The Artist." That's a lot to pick from, so of course we're going to recommend -- in this final edition of "Scarecrow Recommends" -- some titles related to the dark, cerebral period spy drama starring a bunch of jowly old British gents.

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There are a lot of films coming out in the next week or so. The holiday week is unusually packed, with releases of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "The Adventures of Tintin," "We Bought a Zoo," (which would be a better title with a question mark at the end...We Bought a Zoo?), "A Dangerous Method," "War Horse," and the film currently expected to be the Oscar frontrunner, "The Artist." That's a lot to pick from, so of course we're going to recommend -- in this final edition of "Scarecrow Recommends" -- some titles related to the dark, cerebral period spy drama starring a bunch of jowly old British gents.

John Le Carre's novel "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" was previously adapted for British TV as a six-hour miniseries in 1979. It starred Alec Guinness as master spy George Smiley, who's trying to reveal the identity of a mole in the upper echelons of British intelligence. Now Tomas Alfredson, director of the great Swedish vampire film "Let the Right One In," has readapted it for the cinema, starring Gary Oldman in the Smiley role. It's a fantastic film, less a spy drama than a character piece about getting older and reconciling with one's past.

There are two sequel novels to "Tinker," one of which was also made into a miniseries, again starring Guinness. Smiley's People finds the titular spymaster called out of retirement (this happens a lot) to investigate a Soviet general who may be connected to Smiley's nemesis, the mysterious Soviet spy Karla. Both of these miniseries are absorbing, complicated and deliberately paced. These stories are far from the action-adventure spy stories we're used to from Bond or Bourne, but they're just as exciting.

A few other of Le Carre's novels have also been filmed. 1965's "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold," directed by Martin Ritt and starring Richard Burton, is an especially bleak thriller about an ex-British agent who's brought into a plan to fake his defection to the Soviet Union in order to discredit a KGB agent. Of course, things are never what they seem in films like this. Burton gives one of his best performances as an alcoholic, ego-driven man apparently at the end of his rope, a far reach from the confident, capable superspies the movies usually give us.

Perhaps the most obscure (or at least forgotten) film based on one of Le Carre's novels is 1990's "The Russia House." Sean Connery stars as a London-based book publisher who stumbles upon a Soviet scientist who wants to defect and provide the West with the USSR's nuclear secrets. The British government enlists Connery in a plan to use the scientist's lover (Michelle Pfeiffer) as bait to draw him out and verify the information he's offering. Of course Connery and Pfeiffer fall for each other and, realizing that they're merely pawns in this whole scheme, have to play both sides against one another. There's some particularly gorgeous location footage, as the film was shot in Moscow. This is a quiet, romantic drama rather than a thriller, and an entirely unique (although not entirely successful) film.

Hope you all have enjoyed these recommendations over the last couple of years! Happy Holidays from Scarecrow Video!




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