Saturday 17 September 2011

A film, you say? Heralding a return to the public consciousness of the spy novel? That's popular? Creating myriad articles in international media? One of Le Carré's novels? No, sorry, haven't heard anything

With Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy now out in the cinema - and I look forward to seeing it very soon - the slew of positive media coverage of the film, and more broadly the spy novel genre continues apace.

UK media reviews so far have been generous to a fault: The Guardian (five stars), The Daily Telegraph, (five stars), The Times (also five stars), the Daily Mail (a-ha, only four stars!), the Daily Express (ooh, only 3 out of a possible 5), The Sun (back to 4 out of 5) .... they all pretty much love it. And journalists are loving the chance to explore a genre that one might had thought had, Bond apart, slipped from the media's and indeed the popular consciousness. Cue some cliché heavy, but entertaining writing about "the spying game".

William Boyd in The Guardian gives us an A-Z of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; his colleague Agnes Poirier meanwhile looks at the film from the point of view of the UK's national psyche. In The Telegraph, meanwhile, Marie-Claire Chappet gives us her 'inside guide' to the skills and codes of 'spy craft'; in the same paper, Josie Ensor goes for a baser approach to the film, asking if Oldman is sexier than Guinness. One suspects this matters little to about ninety percent of the people going to this film!

In The Times, Ed Potton describes this film as "the ultimate British espionage thriller" (subscription website). Now, that's some boast up against adaptations of Greene, Deighton, Fleming and others. But, he writes, "everyone's talking about this film". Mary Bowers in the same paper reports on John Le Carré's public endorsement of the film through his appearance at the BFI at the premiere earlier this week.

Blog reader Morgan Davies spotted a great article in the Irish Independent which gives a pretty thorough run-down of the great British spy thrillers, right from Greta Garbo in Mata Hari to the present day. Deighton's Harry Palmer was, the writer says, "clever, but he never really had a handle on what was going on in the unending chess match between east and west." And that's the same for many thrilling cold war literary heroes.

All good stuff, and great to see British writers, and British film-making (with a clear Swedish tinge!) grabbing the headlines. Oscar a-hoy, no doubt!

Readers of this blog are welcome to add links to any other interesting reviews and particularly features in the UK and international media, and share their thoughts about the movie.


  1. Well, since you ask... here are my thoughts on the film, in a post which caps a week of le Carre-themed blogging...

  2. Entertaining write-up of the write-ups. I particularly liked Boyd's A-Z, good spot. Saw TTSS last week, coincidentally (thematically) after having just finished my first Deighton, The Ipcress File. I'm guessing Len is more fun than Le Carre and easier to follow, but I'm certainly gagging to read The Honourable Schoolboy now. I'm glad the publicity for TTSS is dying down a bit now, I couldn't take any more reports mentioning Alec bloody Guinness! And nor, do I suspect, could Gary Oldman.