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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Gary Oldman
Colin Firth
Tom Hardy
Kathy Burke
Benedict Cumberbatch
David Dencik
Stephen Graham
Ciarán Hinds
John Hurt
Toby Jones
Simon McBurney
Mark Strong.
Directors
Thomas Alfredson.
Screenwriters
Bridget O'Connor
Peter Straughan.
Running Time
127 minutes

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Oldman has a Smiley face!


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Plot
London, the 1970s: After a fiasco of a covert operation, British Intelligence spymaster Control (Hurt) and his right-hand man George Smiley (Oldman) are sacked. Then shocking but persuasive information that a Soviet mole has penetrated to the heart of the secret service prompts the Whitehall wallahs to task Smiley with spying on the spies.


Review
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
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It was certainly a brave undertaking, tackling what is not only one of the greatest espionage novels ever, but one whose 1979 serialisation by the BBC lingers in the memory of everyone of a certain age. It’s a pleasure and a relief, then, that the film succeeds in its own right. It is a superior whodunnit thriller and a very grown-up one, devoted not to guns, girls, gadgets and glamour, but to the little grey cells. And in plumbing George Smiley’s grey matter, Gary Oldman has understood the illusion of being a nondescript sort of little man with a remarkable mind, authority and a gut full of secret sorrows and sins behind the serious spectacles.

The starting point is a fine screenplay by Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O’Connor that rings a few changes to John le Carré’s tale. Most of them are subtle, sensible, and a couple are even a touch humorous. It probably goes without saying that the sterling cast is uniformly on top of things, undoubtedly delighted to find themselves in such excellent company. The real stroke was recruiting Tomas Alfredson. With Swedish melancholia in vogue, the Let The Right One In director proves an ideal choice to turn a baleful gaze on le Carré’s perfectly miserable spies — a breed of men he characterised as unromantic figures prone to unpleasant stomach ailments and trouble with their wives. Alfredson is clearly a kindred spirit of both le Carré and Smiley, intently focused and with a dispassionate eye for the small, telling detail: on a face, in a room, from a conversation.

Pulled back into the Cold War spy game to unmask the traitor in the Circus that is MI6, Smiley learns that Control (John Hurt) had sniffed the mole and assigned code names for his principle suspects. Tinker is smug Percy Alleline (Toby Jones). Tailor is sardonic Bill Haydon (Colin Firth). Soldier is bluff proletarian Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds). Poor Man is prissy émigré Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), and sadsack Smiley, also a suspect, Beggarman. Evidently Control grasps Smiley’s two weaknesses: his love for faithless wife Ann, and his fascination with Soviet counterpart Karla. It’s a great decision that we never see the faces of Ann or Karla, shadowy figures who loom large in Smiley’s capacious memory. In one particularly arresting scene, Smiley relates his sole face-to-face encounter with Karla years earlier — not through flashback, but an anecdote in which he becomes uniquely animated, re-enacting his dialogue with the cruelly astute Russian.

Other key players in the chess game include Mark Strong’s dutiful, tragic Jim Prideaux, dangled as bait, betrayed and abandoned… to become a teacher. Nowadays, of course, it is hard to imagine even the most third-rate public school engaging a darkly mysterious man with no past and permitting him to entertain small boys to tea in his rackety-packety caravan, but it’s in keeping with the seediness that deliberately pervades the whole shebang, from the desiccated Control, with his messy rooms and his paranoid plotting, to the nicely cheesy selection of Julio Iglesias warbling La Mer over the end montage.

It’s probable Benedict Cumberbatch had the most fun as Peter Guillam, Smiley’s trusted legman (amusingly, TV’s Sherlock plays what Ian Nathan aptly described as Smiley’s Watson) with a groovy narrow-cut suit, fruity ties and a ’60s pop-star haircut. He features in a showpiece nail-biter of a sequence; it’s the good old filching-of-secret-documents routine, but his progress from the security entrance and through the corridors of The Circus — brushing by suspects and the suspicious — is achieved with sweat trickling in suspense. Tom Hardy is the bit of rough Ricki Tarr, a foot soldier at the thuggish end of field work, but one with the instincts to know when he’s been sent on a fool’s errand and when to run. It is the return of AWOL agent Ricki that raises the alarm and sets Smiley on the right track. It’s wonderful to see Kathy Burke cajoled back into acting for a key scene as boozy Connie, the researcher forcibly retired to shut her up and shelve her encyclopedic memory. There’s even a cameo from le Carré, who can be seen among the Circus staff drunkenly hailing the arrival of Santa Lenin at the ghastly office Christmas party revisited in a series of discreetly revelatory flashbacks.

Those who have not read the book or seen the BBC version do not need to worry overmuch about plot complexities or following the threads — Ricky Tarr’s odyssey out in the cold, the workings of Alleline’s pet project Operation Witchcraft, the language of the ‘service’ — although they are well laid out. What matters are the layers and levels of betrayal, to country, cause, colleagues, lovers and to self, from great to small, like a nested Russian doll.

Rarely do critics complain that a film isn’t long enough, but this is the almost freakish exception. The film is so well paced over its two-odd hours, but another half-hour could have been used to give the suspects more to do and to generate yet more suspense and concern about which of them is the traitor. It’s really the revelation of the mole that lets the side down — it doesn’t deliver the punch to the gut one wants. Of course, if you haven’t worked out who it is by then, you must be very innocent in the ways of these things. Of course it is him. It had to be him. But his all-of-a-sudden apprehension and the tableau greeting the latecomer arriving at the scene of the double-dealer’s downfall, while laudable in its restraint and lack of histrionics, is a trifle too cool.

Oldman’s performance is most eloquent and expressive in his fluent command of body language. The set of his shoulders and his posture, the occasional adjustment of his spectacles, tell you precisely what’s going on in Smiley’s mind. There is a moment near the end when we only see him from the back but feel an electric thrill, knowing with certainty by his stance that his heart has leapt at what he has seen. Alfredson is startlingly adept at envisioning how Smiley’s mind works; you can almost see the wheels turning as the pieces of the puzzle click together (at one point you literally see tracks converging as he nears his ‘Eureka!’ moment), and a clever piece of sound editing filters conversations through Smiley’s thought process until he homes in on a phrase that is the key to everything. And then there is his face in his final shot; we recognise the sweet taste of game over, game well-played in his mouth.


Verdict
Utterly absorbing, extremely smart and - considering this is a sad, shabby, drably grey-green world of obsessives, misfits, misdirection, disillusionment, self-delusion and treachery - quite beautifully executed.


Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Empire Star Rating

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy: Review

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a very good film. It had a great story, great cast & great dialogue. The story is just so well done it was great to learn and I loved the ending. My only complaint about the film is it just a bit slow at times which I feel some scenes could have been cutted out. It is still a good film but its just a bit slow. I would recommend to go see this film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Edward9630 at 01:11, 25 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier S**T

L: Nate_001 Quite simply this film disappointed me. It's not that it was too slow or too complex, it's just that nothing seemed to happen to fuel your interest in the story to make you WANT to stay focused. Well for me anyways. I will say however, even though Im not a fan of this movie, it saddens me that it has created a platform for smug pricks who followed the storyline and understood everything that was going on to act like, well, smug pricks. Yes this is aimed at some people ... More

Posted by thetruth at 00:58, 25 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier S**T

Quite simply this film disappointed me. It's not that it was too slow or too complex, it's just that nothing seemed to happen to fuel your interest in the story to make you WANT to stay focused. Well for me anyways. I will say however, even though Im not a fan of this movie, it saddens me that it has created a platform for smug pricks who followed the storyline and understood everything that was going on to act like, well, smug pricks. Yes this is aimed at some people here, as well as peopl... More

Posted by Nate_001 at 00:24, 25 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

In 2 viewings,strangest crowds i seen.Ever. Back on topic-whaat??? ... More

Posted by thetruth at 23:55, 24 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

L: Deviation L: Sway On topic:   I really didn't like Tinker Tailor.  /quote] I am full of sin and I say we stone her. I was just mentioning Warrior,as you said noise spoiled bits of TTSP,which for me,would have ruined the film. ... More

Posted by thetruth at 23:53, 24 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

L: Sway On topic:   I really didn't like Tinker Tailor.  /quote] I am full of sin and I say we stone her. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 21:03, 24 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

L: thetruth L: Rgirvan44 I honestly thought it was straightforward - very much a "follow the money" type mystery.  s engrossed,but luckily so was everyone who seen it. You need quiet to watch this. was full of chatty UFC/MMA twats who would not stop talking!!!Twice!!!ote] Sorry to quickly derail this thread, but I had an odd experience when I saw Warrior.   It was a fairly empty screen, and 3 youngish lads turned up during the trailers and *just* before... More

Posted by Sway at 21:01, 24 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Still unsure.....

L: thetruth L: Deviation Two things I didn't get as there was some distractions in the cinema I was watching it in (loud projectionist who left the projection room while talking on his mobile and a bizarre old man who came in the cinema exactly in the airfield scene). SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY ho was Witchcraft? I got that he was mostly a smokescreen and a distraction but I missed the part where Smiley mentions his name to Toby in the airfield. LERS END LERS ALERT!!!! ... More

Posted by Deviation at 20:33, 24 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Seriously looking forward to seeing this now after reading this thread - going tomorrow afternoon. Cheers. ... More

Posted by ladytubedriver at 07:32, 24 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

L: Rgirvan44 I honestly thought it was straightforward - very much a "follow the money" type mystery.  s engrossed,but luckily so was everyone who seen it. You need quiet to watch this. Warrior was full of chatty UFC/MMA twats who would not stop talking!!!Twice!!! ... More

Posted by thetruth at 22:59, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Obviously i meant LESS complicated! ... More

Posted by thetruth at 22:55, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I honestly thought it was straightforward - very much a "follow the money" type mystery.  ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 21:31, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

That´s a pity. Maybe a second viewing might make things complicated. Perhaps i was too engrossed,i thought it all went very quckly! ... More

Posted by thetruth at 21:21, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Wow. I'm not sure what went wrong. This is the only film I have ever seen where I had no idea what the he'll was going on from start to finish. I mean, I got the overall idea that there was a mole and Smiley was trying to find out who it was, however I lost the thread of what was actually happening in the first 15 minutes and never picked it up again. As a result I had the most boring and bemusing film experience of my life. I don't think the set up was all that well done. I would hav... More

Posted by Gazdance at 21:14, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Still unsure.....

L: Deviation Two things I didn't get as there was some distractions in the cinema I was watching it in (loud projectionist who left the projection room while talking on his mobile and a bizarre old man who came in the cinema exactly in the airfield scene). SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY ho was Witchcraft? I got that he was mostly a smokescreen and a distraction but I missed the part where Smiley mentions his name to Toby in the airfield. LERS END LERS ALERT!!!! Witchcraft is... More

Posted by thetruth at 17:59, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Still unsure.....

Two things I didn't get as there was some distractions in the cinema I was watching it in (loud projectionist who left the projection room while talking on his mobile and a bizarre old man who came in the cinema exactly in the airfield scene). SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY ho was Witchcraft? I got that he was mostly a smokescreen and a distraction but I missed the part where Smiley mentions his name to Toby in the airfield. LERS END ... More

Posted by Deviation at 17:41, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Still unsure.....

I wouldnt agree with it being complicated,but it possibly is quite slow for some people. I still think it adds to the quality of the film. ... More

Posted by thetruth at 17:22, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Still unsure.....

It's excellent and one of the finest thrillers (even though it is more of a drama) I've seen in ages which wonderfully reminded of a 70s political thriller. Also, I'm genuinely surprised that people find this complicated or slow. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Deviation at 17:15, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


Still unsure.....

On one hand it was brilliantly acted and the whole design of the film was outstanding - if you didn't know any of the actors and walked in halfway through, you could genuinely be mistaken for thinking it was actually filmed in 1973, but on the otherhand, it was very complicated and very slow. I don't mind the fact that there were no 'Point Break' style footchases or 'Bourne' style car escapes, and I think the film has to be commended for not walking the viewer through the plot step-by-step, but ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bobby TwoTimes at 09:32, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier S**T

L: Deviation Well you know I'm right. THIS MOVIE IS SO BORING On a serious note, I should be watching this in about twelve hours time. I can't wait./quote] ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:27, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier S**T

Well you know I'm right. THIS MOVIE IS SO BORING On a serious note, I should be watching this in about twelve hours time. I can't wait. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 00:24, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier S**T

L: Deviation Well I usually love slow paced dramas about English middle aged men (especially when directed by Swedish directors) and I'm quite ordinarily intelligent but I thought this was sooooooo boring. I wasted two hour of my life. Only pretentious people who probably liked The Tree of Life as well love this. Don't watch it. haven't seen it lolololololololololol etc.../quote] Fur Q Deviation.  You're the only person I like who didn't like it.  Keep your di... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:18, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier S**T

Well I usually love slow paced dramas about English middle aged men (especially when directed by Swedish directors) and I'm quite ordinarily intelligent but I thought this was sooooooo boring. I wasted two hour of my life. Only pretentious people who probably liked The Tree of Life as well love this. Don't watch it. haven't seen it lolololololololololol etc... ... More

Posted by Deviation at 00:14, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier S**T

L: Rgirvan44 A very handsome production. I hate it when when people on Empire do this:  "^ This"... But yeah....^Thisompletely sums it up for me.  A good looker of a film, elegantly handled by everyone in it and behind it.  Well intentioned, and well executed.  I've seen it 3 times now and want to see it again.  I could watch Gary Oldman's Smiley react to a knock at the door all day. Everyone who hates it tend to disclaim how or... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:03, 23 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Tinker Tailor Soldier S**T

SEMI SPOILERS ABOUT WHO PROBABLY DIDN'T DO IT!!! ------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------- Okie dokes I finally got to see the film. Pretty darned good all round I have to say. I was expecting it to be a serious slow burner from the reviews I'd read, and boy was it ever. Way to slow for anyone who wasn't already invested in the film by virtue of having enjoyed the bo... More

Posted by dolfinack at 22:02, 22 September 2011 | Report This Post


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