{2jtab: Movie Review}

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Movie Review


<div style="float:left">
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-9764823118029583";
/* 125x125, created 12/10/07 */
google_ad_slot = "8167036710";
google_ad_width = 125;
google_ad_height = 125;
<script type="text/javascript"

5 Stars

John le Carré has one of the most critically lauded spy writers in the world for many decades, and, now in his eighties, continues a regular and popular output of novels for the world to devour. The real life former SIS operative has carved himself out quite a niche in the spy genre, with his own unique brand of storytelling far removed from the likes of Fleming and company. Having never read the man, or being aware that multitudes of his books have been adapted to film or television, this reviewer came in cold to the le Carré world, eager to see the spy world from an unfamiliar set of eyes.

Another thing that drew this reviewer, was that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was to be the sophomore outing for director Tomas Alfredson, who wowed with the remarkable vampire film Let the Right One In.

So what’s it about? Well, it follows the return of an over the hill spy, Smiley, who has recently been unceremoniously dumped from the spy world, due to a bungled operation. It is this operation that draws into question the loyalties of certain key members of the Circus (MI6, the Agency, etc), and Smiley is asked back to investigate the claims of a defected field agent that there is a mole within their ranks.

This is one of the most intricately plotted films I have ever watched; and for a film to be able to keep someone who knows film structure like the back of his hand guessing, it is a remarkable accomplishment of narrative. But there is also a downside to this kind of structure, in that with so many characters and twists and things to ponder, a story of this complexity has to sacrifice time to at least one aspect, and that aspect is character. This is not to say that characters are not well drawn and impeccably performed, but with this film intent of representing the dangerously evolving, paranoia-filled world these characters inhabit correctly, characters are lost in the complexity. Emotionally connecting with them, or their plight, is difficult because of this. I suspect, even having not read a word of le Carré, that his novels are able to fill that void where a film adaptation simply can’t. The fact that they pulled this off at all, in a medium truncated by time, is very impressive indeed.

It would be remiss of me not to address, despite my admiration for the work poured into this film, that there are two kinds of spy films commonly out there: the ones where action and spectacle take centre stage, and the ones that delve into the psyche of these kinds of people. This film is the latter. If you are expecting action aplenty, nail biting sequences, beautiful dames, then return to Bond. There is confronting violence; it is graphic, brutal, and very real, but it is not a visual spectacle. I prefer Bond to this kind of film. This is in no way a criticism of this style of spy film, but my preference for a movie is escapism not realism.

The cinematography of this film has a delicious fidelity to the era in which the story is set: the 70s. There is heavy grain in some sequences, the garish colours and décor are muted like an old photograph; it’s really convincing and compliments the film’s edict to be as real as possible.

This is a very understated production, not vying for your attention in the slightest. Its focus is the reality of the spy world; its pitfalls, dangers, and consequences. It has a troupe of the highest calibre of performers, and a script as intelligent and masterfully complex as they come. If this is your cup of tea, narratively, I challenge you to find a better example of the genre. It is not flawless, but it is awfully close.

{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:
January 30, 2012 (U.K.)

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
4 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

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

Available on Blu-ray - January 30, 2012 (U.K.)
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

{2jtab: Trailer}