Here's what I said:
And so it began. And right off the bat, it was different from LeCarre's gentle start with Jim Prideaux arriving at the school in its bucolic setting. Instead we are taken to the Circus right away. If I thought for a moment that the film might be leaving LeCarre's quiet suspense behind in favor of a more modern taste for fast action I was wrong. The film moves slowly but steadily along, with frequent flashbacks from this spy or that to explain what they knew, when they knew it, and who they told, thereby explaining the intricasies of the plot.
But do they? Having read the book, I had a pretty good handle on who the fairly large assortment of spys and counterspies were and what they were doing. And yes, in this somewhat tidied up version, a few of those names were lopped off; I wonder how easily the storyline is followed by someone who hasn't (heaven forbid) read the book first?
I had never heard of the director, Tomas Alfredson, before. He's a Swede who has done mostly nordic television work so I can't quite fathom how he landed such a plum job. He did helm the vampire flick "Let the Right One In" - it may have a cult following I'm not aware of. Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan wrote the screenplay together as they did Sixty Six, again a film I've never heard of. BUT Straughan also wrote The Debt and Men Who Stare at Goats so the writing assignment does make sense.
Grey and gloomy London, Budapest and Istanbul, the Circus with it's soundproof modules, tatty old English homes and Control's crazed hoarder's flat all read beautifully and authentically thanks to Maria Djurkovic's production design, and Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography. The costume design by veteran Jacqueline Durran was perfect in its imperfection, just what you would expect from someone who did the wardrobe for Atonement, Pride and Prejudice and Vera Drake. Her latest film is Anna Karenina (what? again?) with Keira Knightly and Jude Law; period pictures are clearly her element.