Monday, January 16, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

If you're considering seeing this film, take into consideration the following two points:

1. This film does not have a true expository sequence that explains everything that you've just seen.

2. The majority of anything that can be termed as true "action" occurs within the first ten minutes of the film.
If either of these points comes as a disappointment to you, then Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not the film for you. If you're a fan of Mission Impossible and/or Sherlock Holmes and think that this film will be like one of those series, you will be disappointed. You see, John le Carré, the novelist behind the film did work in intelligence and his novels have a much more realist bent to them - and as it happens, spies simply aren't very good if they're drawing attention to themselves by having public shootouts or blowing up restaurants. As if to underline this point, the action in the film begins because of a public incident that forces the head of the "Circus" (think MI:6) into retirement as the scandal blows over.

The bulk of the film is spent trying to discern the identity of a mole at the highest levels of the government. There are conversations and contemplations and terse scenes where you're waiting for someone to get caught by they never do. This movie instead forces you to pay attention, to constantly tease out the relationship of incident A to incident B, where it all fits in in the timeline, and whether or not it's giving you a hint to the identity of the culprit. It's a quiet, tense film with many stretches of true silence - no dialogue, no music, just silence as the characters work things through.

Although the movie does eventually make nice and give you a culprit, as I stated before, there is no grand reveal. Just a slow pan and a later conversation that references an earlier scene that you may or may not pick up on as the pivotal scene. And if you do, it may be more because of a gut feeling than any real ability to name why it's him.

As implied above, this is a dialogue heavy film with little action and on occasion to does seem to drag. This is also not a film to get up and leave in the middle of, or you genuinely do risk becoming totally lost because at times it does seem that your ability to grasp the plot is quite thin as it is. Still, if you've got the patience for it, my provisos above didn't scare you away and you're interested in spycraft check it out. It's as likely one of the more realistic versions of espionage that we're ever likely to see.

Fun fact: John le Carré turned to writing full time because he was outed by a mole in a the real life incident that was inspiration for the novel (and the film).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What I'm reading this week: 1/15/2012

Trying to get back into swing of things, I've decided to start doing weekly reviews of the comics I've been reading: I'm going to avoid the major DC/Marvel imprint and try and focus on titles that could use some more attention. For the first few weeks, I'm going to focus less on individual issues and more on the series as a whole to this point. As needed, I'll update if my opinions change.


Icon Comics
What would you do if you come back to school only to find your friends have unlocked the secret to superpowers? It’s an interesting what-if scenario that has the potential to be quite good, if it doesn’t get bogged down in “power corrupts” tropes down the line.

Albert’s group of friends have been quite busy in his absence you see, and in his absence, the ring-leader Amadeus has used the technique on himself –and the changes to Amadeus may be more than just to his skills.

The book does a nice job of setting up the two sides – Albert’s weary skepticism, and Amadeus’s determination to use the new abilities, even if it does feel like a slightly obvious set up for a rivalry down the road.

Bagley’s artwork is solid, if unremarkable.  You won’t necessarily remember it, but it won’t pull you out of the book either.

In some ways my critique of the art applies to the book as a whole: it’s solid, but unremarkable.
If you’re like the thought of abilities, but not necessarily the thought of people with abilities being superheroes this may be for you. In particular, Heroes fans may enjoy this since it’s explores the ideas of how people react to and what people decide to do with these gifts.  It’s worth a look.

Publisher: N/A

Sacrifice is a six-part, self-published mini-series by Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose. It looks at the decline and fall of the Aztec  Empire through the eyes of a modern American whose epileptic seizures have somehow induced time travel back to the period of time just before the arrival of Cortes.

The set-up is unique but I’m not entirely sure that I’m thrilled with the mechanism if only because it does lead to an offensive line from his parents in the first book that wasn't necessary. That said, the book’s strengths are unquestionably in the past where most of the time is spent. It’s interesting seeing how he reacts to this new world, and even more so how the Aztecs react to him. The book does have a tendency to get a bit heavy handed in the exposition to explain some of the players going on, but it’s forgivable because it does ultimately give a bit more weight to the story and creates suspense as to whether his actions in the past will affect the future.

I suspect that for many, the make it or break it point will be the art. It feels almost rudimentary, like you’ve seen better art in web comics, let alone in the professionally printed titles. It's clean enough, it just feels simplistic and it isn't likely going to be a draw in and of itself especially as the price of comics continues to creep up. That said, even if you aren't a fan of the art I urge you to still pick it up anyway, even though it can be hard to it. The story is unique enough to to be worth it.

The series isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the more intriguing titles that’s come out recently and it’s the kind of risk taking that that we as readers should encourage by supporting it with our purchases. 

Given the limited nature of its release, you’ll likely have trouble finding it at your local retailer. Collector’sParadise does have some copies available, but your best bet will likely be digital distribution: both comiXology and Graphicly carry it. Take the time and hunt it down, it's worth the effort.