My wife and I invoked our “30 minute rule” when watching this movie. The rule is: if the movie can’t interest either of us in 30 minutes, then we turn it off and quit wasting our time.
According to Wikipedia, this film is based on a 1974 novel and “the story follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service.” In the first 30 minutes, no one “hunted” for a Soviet double agent. In fact, it wasn’t even clear that anyone in the movie was part of the British secret service.
The only interesting thing in 30 minutes was the very first scene, when an agent met with [someone, we don’t know who] and was shot dead by a waiter. There were seemingly random scenes after that, of old men talking in rooms, one old guy swimming in a cold river, and an old guy staring at a small framed painting in a hallway. There were other scenes of old guys walking on sidewalks, going through doors, and opening gates.
As far as I could tell, none of them had names. Some of them argued about a secret source. A lady walked through a dimly lit room and put a file in a wheeled filing cabinet.
It was ridiculous in its inability to tell the viewer what was going on. I didn’t even know it was supposed to be in the ’70s until my wife said she’d seen on a piece of paper on one guy’s desk: “1973”. There was no mention of what agency the people belonged to, except “the Circus” (Wikipedia says that’s a slang term for the British secret service; all I know is that it’s Latin for “circle”).
The movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, and actually won two BAFTAs (British Oscars) for “Best Adapted Screenplay” and “Outstanding British Film”, only God knows why. It also won a BIFA for “Best Technical Achievement” and a COFCA for “Best Ensemble”, and a bunch of other awards.
Perhaps the final 90 minutes was outstanding; there’s always that possibility. But a movie won’t get a good score from me if it wastes the first 30 minutes without telling us anything or entertaining us in any way.