Wednesday, 31 July 2013

tinker, tailor, soldier, spy

I actually listened to this as audiobook while walking shortly before watching the film.

I found the book good but a little confusing.  It's one of those with a lot of characters who are introduced in fairly subtle ways and often without much in the way of physical description so there's not much for you to hang onto.

Plot wise it made perfect sense, but I had to really concentrate on the characters - particularly since the point is that one of them is a spy!

This film has a bit of a hard act to follow.  It's one of a few adaptations and one of the most famous was by the BBC and starred Alec Guinness of all people and was quite well regarded.

This is also the first in a set of stories by le Carre and featuring the character George Smiley and revolving around Karla, a Russian spy.  Smiley features in many other of le Carre's novels, but these are probably the most well known.  What I'm saying is that if they are adapting this then they probably intended to do all of the other Karla books.

So do I think they should - was it any good?

Well yes, I thought it was quite a good adaptation.  Smiley is played by Gary Oldman and I have to say he's perfect in the role.  He really nails the character and it's a suitably subtle performance - Smiley is a very taciturn, deliberate, thoughtful character, not given to outbursts or displays of emotion.

The story is necessarily tweaked to fit the running time, though the main core of the story is there.  The real changes are around the more peripheral characters.  One of the best examples of this is Jim Prideaux.  In the book there's quite a lot of stuff around his job as a school teacher, particularly revolving around one of the boys.  In the film he's a school teacher, and we see some of the events, but they're incidental flavour, rather than things that take up significant screen time.

This has the advantage of not muddying the waters - the focus is squarely on Smiley, though it does remove some of the colour.

Overall I thought it was a good adaptation then, particularly of material that's very cerebral in nature.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

hungarian grand prix

I didn't post a blog yesterday because I got busy with something from early on and basically forgot.

It was the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend.

It's been on the calendar a long time has Hungary, but it's not one of the classic races.  The nature of the circuit is such that it's very difficult to overtake.  The circuit is relatively slow speed as it is basically a continuous series of corners.  This makes it challenging and (I imagine) interesting to drive, but doesn't facilitate overtaking.

However, saying all that, this recent race was okay.  I mean, it wasn't amazing, but there was enough stuff happening that it wasn't totally dull.

It was also Hamilton's first win for Mercedes.  I have to admit they've done a lot better this year than I thought they would - I thought they'd struggle this year and then possibly pull off a blinder with the new engines next year.

He's also theoretically in the hunt for the championship, but I think this weekend was actually somewhat distorted.  Basically Vettel, Alonso and Raikonnen got a bit stuck behind Button's McLaren.  Button actually did quite well in the race, as he was down in 13th after qualifying and ended up 8th.  I think they drove a clever strategy that Button was able to make work, but it was helped by the difficulty of overtaking at the circuit, as he then delayed a lot of people.

However, there is another way of looking at that, in that Lewis was also in the position of having to overtake people on a difficult circuit, but he did it, where others either failed or took too long.  Hamilton had to overtake Button once and Webber twice and did so it quick order each time.

To me this shows the difference between Lewis and some of the competition - give him a car that's up to the job and let him go and he will race, where others will perhaps tend to sit back and consolidate.

It's now the F1 mid-season break, so there won't be any races for a while, and I think when it comes back at the end of the month it's the always entertaining Belgium race at Spa.