Last week a trailer appreared on the internet for a new adaptation of John Le Carré’s novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It’s out in September and apparently features every single British actor you can think of. After you watch it, I will attempt to explain why it’s a great trailer. Here it is:
And here’s why it’s great:
- The music. The music makes it, really – especially those menacing violins over the section with the actors’ names at the end. And it’s same score throughout: any trailer which shifts its tone midway by changing the music is TOO LONG.
- The big black fades between shots at the beginning (I’d have kept them throughout). These provide a touch of chic, a ‘dark’ atmosphere, and best of all only allow the briefest of glimpses at the images they bridge, so as not to spoil them for the film itself.
- No inane voiceover, and minimal explanation of what’s going on. There’s a mole at the top of something and he’s been there for years. He could be any one of five men. Great, that’s all I need to know.
- It offers some juicy lines without revealing how they relate to the plot. ‘He’s become so ugly’; ‘We’re not so different, you and I’. Who’s ugly? Who and who aren’t different? No idea – good.
- It’s short. A minute is more than long enough to fulfil the above: establish a tone, show some images, explain the germ of the plot and show who’s in it.
Contrast this with Larry Crowne’s trailer: filling the maximum allowed length of two and half minutes, it tells you that Tom Hanks is a nice guy who loses his job so goes back to college, where he’s taught by Julia Roberts, who initially sees him as annoying but then grows fonder of him, before eventually they get together. Isn’t that the whole film? With a plot so bad, I’d have thought you’d be especially careful not to give it away.
And it isn’t just trash that suffers from trailers in this way. Have a look at this one for The King’s Speech – are there any bits of the film you can remember which aren’t in there somewhere? Often trailers for upmarket fare are lazy, spoilerish showcases of ‘best bits’: see Black Swan, True Grit, Pina. These seem impressive at the time – I was blown away by Pina’s – but chronically lessen the impact of the film itself. You end up wishing you’d never seen them.
I always thought that the point of a trailer was to whet your appetite, not blend the whole meal together and stuff it down your face in one go. So here’s an idea, which might especially apply to thoughtful, arty-type films – why not simply show one well-chosen scene, uncut? Perhaps an early exchange between two characters, which serves to set some of the plot in motion. No context or explanation, but a showcase for acting and writing – ending with the title of the film, the name of the director and when it’s out. I’d be intrigued.