During a recent visit to Kamloops, I stopped by the new Movie Mart location on the North Shore. What a treat! While movie stores across the province have been closing in droves, the Kamloops rental institution remains. For me, it was a perfect opportunity to roam the shelves looking for new releases and old favourites, and I set out for a little spy-on-spy action. The spy genre is diverse, but the three films covered in this edition of Rave Reviews show the range of styles possible.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on John Le Carre’s best-selling novel, harkens back to the Cold War classics of the ‘80s. The film moves slowly, with fine acting and subtle story nuances that demand the viewer pay attention; I was on the edge of my seat trying to catch all the short glances and timed pauses of lead actor Gary Oldman. Oldman, who plays MI6 agent George Smiley, was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the role in last year’s Academy Awards. His talent is perfectly buttressed by the incredible supporting cast: Colin Firth, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy and Mark Strong, to name just a few. This film requires your attention and your patience, but is a worthy two hour foray into Cold War spycraft.
Contrast this with Haywire, director Steven Soderbergh’s most recent DVD release. While Soderbergh is currently riding the guilty-pleasure wave of Magic Mike, Haywire seems to have fallen under the radar as an underappreciated action-packed spy thriller. Rumour has it that Soderbergh wanted to put this movie together just for lead actress Gina Carano, a successful Muay Thai kickboxer. It’s easy to see why—Carano is not only gorgeous, but her stunts and fight-work are insane to watch. Like Tinker Tailor, the cast is impressive, with Antonio Bandares, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender among the host of supporting men. However, unlike Tinker Tailor, the spare dialogue and relatively straightforward story isn’t why I watched. Soderbergh’s camera work is always interesting, and Carano’s fight scenes (not to mention at least one parkour-style chase scene) are fun to see.
Finally, we round out with the more traditional Hollywood-style blockbuster, Safe House. Ryan Reynolds stars as a rookie CIA agent responsible for an agency safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. When alleged traitor Tobin Frost, played by Denzel Washington, is brought in for questioning, all hell breaks loose. Safe House is far more fast-paced than either Tinker Tailor or Haywire, but it also loses some of the reality of the other two films during the city-wide car chase scenes and the explosion-punctuated shoot-outs. If you want a spy movie that will keep you entertained but won’t make you think (or watch) too hard, Safe House is the safe bet.
Entertainment and intrigue are always the orders of the day when you bring home a spy film. Whether the story revisits old conflicts, or brings you to new locales, I’ve always found that spy movies are a fun way to spend an evening. Perhaps I’ll encourage the team at Movie Mart to put together a wall of spy film favourites for the next time I visit.