Nothing in the new film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is quite as compelling as the posters for it. Well, there are compelling moments in the movie but they keep losing their allure by reuse; they just go on telling us there is a mystery while the posters picture it. The posters show Gary Oldman as George Smiley – or rather they show him as Alec Guinness made a little taller, thinner, cooler. The trick, it seems, is to acknowledge Guinness’s ownership of the icon – broad horn-rimmed glasses, dark suit, tie, longish hair swept back, glazed look of the master of intelligence – while suggesting this is an entirely different fellow. In one of the posters, we see Oldman’s eyes and glasses in close-up. On the left lens are the words: ‘The enemy is within.’ In a second version of the same picture we see the eyes and glasses again but this time we are more conscious of the black-gloved hand taking up a piece of the frame. Another poster shows Oldman looking preoccupied. The slogan is: ‘The secret is out.’ In yet another the picture is full-length, and Oldman stands tall against a background of snapshots of the other members of the cast. This image contains no verbal promise or hint, but there is something about the figure that suggests baffled authority, some sort of command gone wrong, a stance that is all stance.
LRB 6 October 2011 | PDF Download