John Hurt's 10 Most Underrated Performances

7. Control - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

John Hurt Tinker Tailor Many people had problems with the film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Some claimed that it didn't have the depth of the TV series, starring Alec Guinness - and there are certain moments where some small details have been lost or compressed. Others thought it boring, a film in which nothing happened and nothing was explained; on this, I would profoundly disagree. But one thing that most people have praised is the film's cast, and on this front Hurt hasn't quite got the credit he deserves. For those not in the know, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a spy thriller written by John Le Carré, which follows the attempts of George Smiley (Gary Oldman) to find a double agent who is operating at the highest level of MI6, colloquially knownas The Circus. The title refers to the nicknames assigned by Control (Smiley's late boss) to the members of The Circus' main committee. While the TV series focussed on the twists and turns of Smiley's investigations, Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In) is more interested in the malaise of 1970s Britain, the redundancy of Smiley's profession and the sexual frustration and repression of the main characters. Hurt is in Tinker, Tailor only for around 5 minutes. His character sets up the search for the mole and gives us the title, before promptly popping his clogs in his hospital bed. Doesn't sound like anything special, but Hurt's performance goes some way in setting the mood. His wheezy delivery, in smoke-filled rooms cluttered with papers and dingy lighting, paint a picture of a mind and world that are slowly dying, desperately trying to retain power and do the right thing even when all seems lost. While Oldman deserves huge plaudits for his performance, it is Hurt who lays the groundwork in which that performance makes sense.
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Contributor

Freelance copywriter, film buff, community radio presenter. Former host of The Movie Hour podcast (http://www.lionheartradio.com/ and click 'Interviews'), currently presenting on Phonic FM in Exeter (http://www.phonic.fm/). Other loves include theatre, music and test cricket.

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