Following on from ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ which I failed to connect with, and recently ‘The Night Manager’ which I enjoyed, the adaptations of le Carré's work seem to either hit a high note from the off or remain slow and tepid – this sadly is the slow and tepid kind, and I would have much rather seen ‘TNM’ on the big screen than this Sunday night-esque 100min TV drama.
Certain types of thriller don’t need to be balls to the wall action and Bond-on-a-budget to work, but they need to compensate that with an engaging story, escalating threat and a top notch cast to hook you. I’ll break this down into those areas.
Story – simple enough to follow and one that works; it’s relevant, it’s identifiable and makes more than enough reference to current political hot-spots.
Threat – something that I didn’t find TOO major, in terms of the real story, because I imagine corruption is rife in London and other capital cities so this wasn’t a topic that thrilled me or seemed very different. The threat, however, was more to the characters than the overall final result.
Cast – on the whole they fail to sizzle.
McGregor and Harris are too comfortable in their role to suddenly help a Russian mafia boss and it doesn’t take long before they are in on the game; they didn’t seem to convey anything out of the ordinary about this situation and bar Harris having a few good moments, it sadly was a rather limp pairing which is a shame as McGregor is capable of more.
Damian Lewis is hard to place in 2016, looking and acting more like he should be in ‘TTSS’ with the 70s attitude, glasses and style he conveys and the tight-lipped accent. It’s Stellan Skarsgård who steals the show with a great journey for his character, and one who is a brash and loud and at times brutal enough to suck you in and always make you question his standing right until the end – you care for him and his family and his story more than anything else. A great role, and the crux of the whole film.
The action is sporadic, a few shoot-outs and fights, nothing really exciting and it feels it’s only here to remind you of the “threat” our ordinary couple face. The final 10 minutes prove to be the most thrilling in this thriller, and it’s a shame because it starts to look and feel like a genuine thriller, but then it’s over.
In places the film looks good, at times disorientating which is fine in mirroring that of Perry and Gail’s world, and the locations are used fittingly – Paris, London, Marrakech and the Swiss Alps. It’s not Bond-on-a-budget at all, and really doesn’t have anything memorable to offer or bring you back for another viewing. While the cast do try, it’s not enough to cover an ultimately slow paced story where people give each other suspicious looks, hide, run, give more suspicious looks and plot about who is watching who.