Gary Oldman in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy': What Critics are Saying About His Performance

1:52 PM PST 09/05/2011 by Sophie Schillaci
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The actor stars opposite John Hurt, Colin Firth, David Dencik and Tom Hardy in the Cold War thriller.

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson is receiving rave reviews for his English language debut Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but how are his actors being received?

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The film adaptation of John le Carré's 1974 Cold War Novel stars Gary Oldman in the lead role of George Smiley, an intelligence officer in the British MI6, or secret service. Appearing opposite an impressive list of actors, including John Hurt, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy, Oldman earns significant praise for his turn as the grey-haired, mole-seeking hero.

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While the role was previously embodied by Alec Guinness for the 1979 British mini-series, Oldman has made the part his own.

The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young writes, "Picking up a role on which the great Alec Guinness left his signature in the 1970s when the novel was adapted as a British TV series, Gary Oldman is a cold-blooded, inscrutable Smiley whose unhappy marriage is the only personal thing about him. The scene in which he relives his one meeting with Karla is about as excited as he gets, and yet his rock-solid steadiness in a world of betrayal and his penetrating mind make him a very British kind of hero."

Xan Brooks of The Guardian says, "Oldman gives a deliciously delicate, shaded performance, flitting in and out of the wings like some darting grey lizard. We have the sense that Smiley has seen too much and done too much, and that a lifetime's experience has bled him of color. His eyes are tired, his collar too tight, his necktie a noose. Yet still he keeps coming, quietly infiltrating a first-rate supporting cast that includes Mark Strong, Kathy Burke and Colin Firth."

The Daily Mail's Chris Tookey notes, "Merely reciting that cast list should give you some idea of the quality of the acting. The good news is that everyone is on top form, none more so than Oldman, who has wasted his talent on some worthless material over the years, but who shows here why he used to be considered the foremost actor of his generation."

"All these roles are played formidably, yet Gary Oldman’s Smiley is the plum role. In large glasses, with lank hair and an ill-fitting overcoat, his Smiley looks unimpressive, but has a razor-sharp brain and a touch of ruthlessness," says David Gritten of The Telegraph.

"We’ve never seen Oldman like this before, and he’s simply stunning: his soliloquy about his only meeting with his counterpart, the Soviet super-spy Karla, is so engrossing you forget to breathe. Alec Guinness immortalised Smiley in the 1970s TV version of this story, yet Oldman is easily his equal," he adds.

This is London's Derek Malcom suggests, "After seeing Gary Oldman in the part in Tomas Alfredson's film, the feeling remains that Guinness's ruffled and endearing Smiley, rehired to find the Soviet mole in MI6 at the height of the Cold War, will never be beaten.

"Oldman, however, goes his own way with skill. He makes Smiley into a marginally different character in a defiantly different film which, though true enough to Le Carré's book, is a grittier, less nostalgic view of the British espionage establishment," he continues.

The film made its world debut at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5, opening in the U.S. on Dec. 9. The actor has several films additional films to be released over the next year, including 2012's The Dark Knight Rises.

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