{2jtab: Movie Review}

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Movie Review


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5 Stars

If not because of its twisty, turny plot chock full of delicious intrigue and deception, then Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy cements itself as a rock in the pantheon of great spy thrillers because of its strong performances - especially from Gary Oldman, who commands every frame of the film and will most certainly be remembered come awards season.

A brilliant adaptation of John Le Carré’s complex Cold War era spy novel of the same name (a cornerstone in British literature in its own right), the film perfectly captures the novel’s stifling air of suspense that was also prevalent in the 1973 TV mini-series that featured Alec Guinness in the lead role. But it’s important to know that in condensing Le Carré’s intricate story to fit within a traditional two-hour runtime, many shortcuts were taken that demand a callisthenics routine by the viewer to keep up with the goings-on. It’s likely one of the most challenging films you’ll ever watch, but one that yields heaping rewards as a payoff.

Oldman is the central character to the complex plot as George Smiley, a middle-aged spy in the British MI6 secret intelligence service and right-hand man to Control (John Hurt), the head of the agency its employees call The Circus. After a mission goes disastrously awry in Hungary, Control and Smiley are summarily dismissed, but are later called upon to sniff out a mole that is suspected of having penetrated the upper echelons of the agency. Even though Control is close to Smiley, he still counts his friend among the suspected secret double agents. But in line with the rhyme, the lineup of suspects begins with “tinker” or Percy Alleline the group’s reformer (Toby Jones). Next in the line is “tailor,” the well-dressed Bill Hayden (Colin Firth) who wields formidable power in dealing with foreign operations.  The workmanlike Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), also known as “soldier” is tagged as another potential suspect who sees Control’s ouster as an opportunity for a power shift. All, one, or none may be passing secrets on to a shadowy figure at the top of the Soviet Union’s KGB known only as Karla.

Accompanied by the young go-getter Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), Smiley sifts through clues, leads, and red herrings to hunt down his man. A sudden opportunity provided by the arrival of hit man Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) might just be the break that is needed to uncover the mole.

Much of the credit for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy‘s success must go to Swedish director Tomas Alfredson who also scored a brilliant achievement with his Let the Right One In. Here he skillfully strings us along through the labyrinthine plot allowing us just enough rope of uncertainty to never feel comfortable in what we think we know. He incorporates Le Carré’s themes of class, corruption, and moral uncertainty while also mixing in a healthy dose of “what the hell is going on here.” Just as it most assuredly is in the real-life game of spies and secret double agents, never knowing who to trust and always believing no one leads to white-knuckle moments of suspense and intrigue. Albeit moments of intrigue that may look like nothing more than the raising of an eyebrow, but impact with the pound of a sledgehammer.

The pacing by screenwriters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan is deliberately slow and calculating which may be misperceived by action/adventure junkies as slow and boring. But succumbing to Alfredson’s deadly serious approach to the subject matter will ultimately lead to an immersion in the time period and all its deadly mistrust. Mistrust that sometimes comes from something as simple as a brief upward glance by a chap reading a newspaper. Only the great filmmakers can make us feel the tightening of the noose and pounding of our pulse with a film that roars while rarely speaking above a whisper.

{2jtab: Film Details and Explanation Diagram}

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language.
: Tomas Alfredson
: Bridget O'Connor; Peter Straughan from novel by John le Carré
Cast: Gary Oldman; Colin Firth; John Hurt; Mark Strong; Toby Jones; Ciarán Hinds; Benedict Cumberbatch; Kathy Burke
Genre: Thriller
How do you find an enemy who is hidden right before your eyes?
Memorable Movie Quote: "There's a mole, right at the top of the Circus. And he's been there for years."
Focus Features
Official Site:
Release Date: December 9, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No information available.

Synopsis: Based on the classic novel of the same name, the international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government – which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Plot and movie explanation:

Having trouble figuring out what happened in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy? Need a plot explanation? Perhaps the following graphic can help clear up some of the confusion. It gives a breakdown of the story, describes The Circus, gives an Anatomy of the Circus and defines many helpful and confusing characters, code names, and terms. Click to enlarge the graphic.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - movie plot explanation

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD)

Available on Blu-ray - March 20, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy

Don’t expect a modern looking movie, and you’ll be just fine with this MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer. It is a beauteous approximation of the 1970s with all the grit and retrospective grime a modern eye would see looking back from the 21st century to a picture of that era. Colours are slightly muted, film grain is apparent in some sequences more than others, details are rich and textured. It’s an almost flawless visual feast for an almost flawless movie. Sound is even better than the picture; the DTS-HD 5.1 Master has one of the best dialogue tracks this reviewer has heard in a movie, and whether there are stark silences or crowd scenes, you can always clearly understand the spies and their complex comings and goings. Average special features, the highlight of them is a 30 minute sit down with author John le Carré.



  • Feature-length audio commentary with Gary Oldman & director Tomas Alfredson.

Special Features:

  • John le Carre interview
  • Smiley Featurette
  • Inside the Circus Featurette
  • Shadow World Featurette
  • John le Carre Featurette
  • Interview with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Director Tomas Alfredson and screenwriter Peter Straughan
  • UK Premier Featurette
  • Sky Movies Featurette
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailers

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