I first watched this film in the Kabuki theater on New Year’s Eve 2012 then went for a mediocre ramen in Japantown. Over ten years later, my second screening, on a late afternoon as my braised chicken bubbles in the oven, granted me a fuller appreciation of the film’s analeptic structure as well as its accomplished cast. Imagine: Tom Hardy! Stephen Graham! Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon McBurney, David Dencik, John Hurt (!), and Gary Oldman (obviously). Yes it’s a sausage party, but who could ask for a more riveting ensemble?
For me, the most alluring aspect of TTSS is its mise-en-scène, its socio-temporal setting. Nobody uses a cell phone, thank christ. There appear to be no computers. And thus the tactile, sensual world of analog technology prevails. Every press of a button or flick of a switch produces an audible click. Examined intelligence files emit the quiet rasp of paper against fingertips. This is a world most of us yearn to inhabit.
I was never a Le Carre fan and I frankly don’t care much about late-Cold War, gray-faced spook-bureaucrats. But the diegisis of TTSS– its textures and ambience– is seductive.