Classic Le Carre spy novel gets movie makeover

Mon Sep 5, 2011 7:36am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - Author John Le Carre's 1974 espionage classic "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" finally gets the big screen treatment, with Gary Oldman as George Smiley charged with rooting out a mole in British intelligence.

Taking on the part comes with extra baggage for any British actor, given the status of Alec Guinness's portrayal of the same character in an acclaimed 1970s television series.

Le Carre, who appears briefly on screen, advised the movie's producers to choose Swedish director Tomas Alfredson to adapt the notoriously complicated story of betrayal for cinema after seeing his vampire film "Let the Right One In."

"The television series had needed seven episodes," said Le Carre in a statement. "And slice it how you will, television drama is still radio with pictures whereas feature film these days barely talks at all."

But he added that he believed Alfredson had succeeded in capturing the essence of his story in just over two hours.

Oldman shines as the taciturn Smiley, who is sacked from British intelligence after his boss orders an operation to recruit a Hungarian general which goes badly wrong.

But he quickly returns to the cloak-and-dagger world of agents, double agents, deceit and danger when it emerges that the Soviets have infiltrated Britain's spy agencies.

Alfredson seeks to recreate the sights and sounds of 1970s London and Eastern Europe, and explores deception between nations as well as betrayals on a personal, more painful level.   Continued...