Movie Reviews

Published on February 24th, 2012 | by Emmanuel Stratford


REVIEW: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

REVIEW: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Emmanuel Stratford



Summary: This big screen version of the John Le Carre book is a tense, gripping yarn which will have you on the edge of your seat throughout.


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A year after he was forced into retirement, ex-spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is called back by a Cabinet office official when information comes to him that there may be a Soviet spy, a mole, at the very top of the British secret service.  Smiley had been forced out along with Control (John Hurt), the head of spy agency, after a disastrous mission in Hungary where a colleague, Jim Prideaux (Andrew Strong), was shot.  It was also an unhealthy time in the secret service, known affectionately by its members as the Circus, with several senior officers having developed a new source of information in the USSR but refusing to share that person’s identity.  Smiley agrees to return and in the course of his examination learns that the secret Soviet source has become the mainstay of the service, one that they soon plan to use to get at US intelligence information.  Smiley soon realizes that the Soviets have turned the service inside out and he must find out who the mole is before it’s too late.

This is an old style 70’s throwback where conspiracies are rife and you have to watch your back at every turn.  It’s an extremely intelligent and complex film which will keep you on your toes and guessing right till the end.  It looks stunning and of that era, it brings you in and makes you a part of that world.  In saying that though you have to be paying full attention as if you tune out for only a few minutes you may lose the entire movie and get totally lost, so best not to watch when you’re tired.

Gary Oldman is surprisingly very reserved and plays most of the role of Smiley internally, he watches everyone’s move and calculates what his next step will be, and it is riveting stuff like watching a lion patiently stalking its prey.  His Oscar nomination is well deserved and in any other year he would take it home.  The supporting cast are on top form too, Colin Firth is all suave and sophisticated while Toby Jones is a snivelling weasel like spy and Ciaran Hinds is the strong man who takes no shit.  Benedict Cumberbatch shows that his stint as Sherlock Holmes was no fluke while Andrew Strong brings genuine pathos and pain to his put-upon spy.  Las but definitely not least is Tom Hardy who has very little screen time but in those very few scenes he almost steals the movie from underneath Oldman, he is going to win and Oscar one day you just watch.

Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In) directs which such assuredness which is surprising as this is only his second movie, although he’s been doing TV for years.  The movies design and pacing is flawless with every cut and beat being of the music driving the movie to its conclusion. The production design is mesmerising with mundane rooms looking stylish while the cinematography is second to none with the camera gliding through scenes with panache.

This is well worth a look especially if you’re into your crime conspiracy films but just be awake for the duration to get the most out of it.

Video Presentation

With a distinctly retro feel to the film the gritty texture to the image may not be everybody’s cup of tea.  In low lit scenes the image can look decidedly grubby but as a stylistic choice this works for the period.  Colours are pretty good with plenty of oranges and browns dotted about the entire film to add to that seventies look.  Generally it’s quite a drab grey and beige affair but again this fits the mood perfectly.  Skin tones come off well lit in darker scenes but remain very natural in the mostly grey daytime scenes.  It’s got its moments but this is a film that needs that HD kick to rise above its limitations I think.

Audio Presentation

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is surprisingly strong with a lot of subtlety.  The soft piano score delicately creates the desired mood; there plenty of day to day ambiance, sound effects and well delivered dialogue which is crisp and clear at all times.  When the action, however slight, kicks off it’s usually a simple volume increase as opposed to anything too exciting.  That said the scores increase in paces grows wonderfully in the mix, as does the pace of the dialogue and it all works wonderfully.


Disc 1

There’s a commentary with director Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman. This is a slow affair with plenty of silent moments much like the film. Alfredson tries to cover the looks of the scenes while Oldman poses questions and comments on some of the actors in the film and the small moments in their performances he likes, some of which would almost go unnoticed without Oldman homing in on them.

The ‘John Le Carre Interview’ is a relatively raw interview with questions coming from off camera.  Le Carre is open and gives highly detailed answers to the questions and paints a picture of his world of characters and the British Intelligence.  This is probably the biggest draw of the disc for any fans of the writer and it’s very good indeed.

Disc 2

This starts with the featurettes all of which have input from the cast and crew and most of it very personal and detailed but they are in such short bursts that even the term ‘featurettes’ feels generous.  The subjects covered are ‘Smiley’, ‘Inside the Circus’, ‘Shadow World’ and ‘John Le Carre’.

The interviews section has Gary Oldman in Commissioner Gordon mode as he describes his take on Smiley in a nice amount of detail; this also has Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and director Tomas Alfredson and writer Peter Straughan.

The ‘UK Premiere’ is a highlight reel of the event with a few interviews.  The ‘Sky Movies Special’ would be fluff if it wasn’t for the participants, who give a thorough, detailed account of the characters and story and the world it’s set in.  This is all shot in the same press junket as the interviews intercut with plenty of clips, which are surprisingly fun.

Lastly we get the trailers wrapping up some extras that don’t feel all that in depth really but I still got a lot from them.

This is an exceptionally good film which will have you thinking a lot while enjoying it too, the performances, direction and pretty much everything else are top notch.  I’d like to think Gary Oldman should walk away with the best actor Oscar this year but i think ‘The Artist has it sewn up in that category.

‘Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’ is out to rent or buy on DVD and Blu-Ray now.

About the Author

Emmanuel has been working in TV for over 15 years and has done many things in the field, now he’s mostly editing, producing and directing. He loves movies and has a wide interest in all genres; video games and TV are a massive interest/influence as well. He's been writing for TechTV101 for a few years and will continue that with GimmeDigital. He's a geek and proud of it.

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