Our Oscar Pick: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

It might not have received a nomination for Best Picture, but ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ is our stand out film this Oscar season. Its on-point depiction of tension between the United States and Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, not to mention the brilliant acting of Oscar-nominated Gary Oldman, make this spy thriller more than just an entertaining two hours of cinema. It’s a telling portrayal that makes reference to a problem that’s spanned decades – wasteful spending on nuclear weapons.

‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ centers around agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman)’s quest to uncover a mole in British Intelligence who has been leaking information to the Russian government. It is believed one of four senior agents, played by Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, and Gary Oldman himself, is a double agent passing classified information – including nuclear intelligence - along to a group of Soviets known as ‘Operation Witchcraft’.

In his search for the mole, Smiley unearths a web of corruption and greed among his colleagues. But even the power-hungry agents recognized that the billions of dollars used for nuclear weapons and related programs is not money well spent. When Agent Oliver Lancon complains about the money British Intelligence shells out for a safe house, Agent Roy Bland (Hines) replies, “We spend millions on nuclear warheads, and you won’t pay for a [safe] house?”

Bland’s complaint is still being made today by individuals like Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), who recently introduced the SANE Act (Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act of 2012) in Congress calling for substantive cuts to the US nuclear arsenal. Given the administration’s goal of slashing $480 billion from the Pentagon’s budget, and the fact that the Cold War is long over, there is little justification for a nuclear program that calls for the 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines the Navy is seeking at a cost of almost $350 billion or a new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber for the Air Force that would cost at least $68 billion.

As Daryl Kimball of Arms Control Association argues in a recent article, both the United States and Russia can make dramatic cuts to their nuclear arsenals while maintaining stockpiles vastly greater than any other nuclear-armed nation. Kimball explains that by taking three key steps – reducing the nuclear submarine force, delaying work on a new strategic bomber, and reducing the land-based strategic missile force, the US could save at least $45 billion.

Imagine how many safe houses that could buy.

If you’re only going to see one movie this Oscar season, make it ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’. If not for the political messaging, do it for the British accents and the sheer joy that is Colin Firth. And if you’re tuning into the Oscar Awards this Sunday, February 26th at 4pm PST be sure to look out for Ploughshares Fund board member Michael Douglas, a presenter this year.

Photo by Magnus D on Flickr