Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Poster

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Not everyone can be one of Smiley's people.
scunnered_again16 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It is true to say that Smiley is no Bourne nor Bond but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a beautifully played and observed spy film. Should you expect car chases, spills, thrills, gadgets galore and closely-choreographed fight scenes then you WILL be disappointed.

Set in smoke-filled, sepia-tinged 1970s, the film centres around the uncovering of a mole 'right at the top of the circus'. The 'circus' is the British Intelligence Services and is made up of a who's who of British acting talent - Firth, Hinds, Cumberbatch, Hardy, Strong and Hurt. For the most part, the action takes place in the brown-suited and wall-papered world of England but we are given brief glimpses of the spy territory in Budapest, Paris and Istanbul. Smiley, played inscrutably by Oldman, is tasked with uncovering the mole and is ably assisted by Guillam, the ever-watchable Cumberbatch.

Admittedly this is a slow-burn of a film, full of meaningful looks, pregnant pauses and one that hints at deeper and more complex plot strands but it has an authentic air and it is a fascinating to observe a build-up of tension and cold-war paranoia which culminates in a dramatic if subdued fashion. Being slightly too young to have watched the original Alec Guiness TV series, I cannot make any direct comparisons and I imagine that a TV series allows much more time for plot and character development. The film must be judged on its own merits, and whilst I am sure that this will not be to many mainstream movie-goers' tastes, it is one for those who are looking for a film of a different type, time and pace.
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A tad confusing in the telling, but excellent in the tone
bob the moo8 April 2012
There is a certain snobbery with films that require more than a small amount of attention – an opinion that if you even ask about a small detail that you missed that you should then go watch Transformers and leave real films to the grownups. It is unpleasant superiority and it is mostly undeserved because to be honest this is a hard film to follow and it does demand attention. Those wishing to insult me via private message can do so, but I did struggle several times to understand how things fitted together and what relevance certain scenes had. This didn't limit my enjoyment of the film though and mostly I still followed the broad stroke of the plot, even if some bits of it did lose me.

I've not read the tome of a book or seen the BBC mini-series, so I can't comment how well it compresses down to this two-hour film, but for me it did at times seem to be cramming a lot into a small time and occasionally it felt like it was unnecessarily convoluted or confusing. If you stay with it as best you can, it is intriguing and rather dramatic considering that much of the film is people talking to one another as opposed to chases and gun fights. The success of this is mostly down to the atmosphere and tone created by director Alfredson, because there is a constant tension to the film – cold perhaps, but very tense at times, certainly not bored even if it can look that way from a distance.

This is not what he does best though, because to there was an aspect to the film that was excellent and this was the feeling of outdatedness, of an unnecessary function and a pointless "war". This feeling is in the characters, in the set-decoration and in every shot. The men we follow had the height of their import many years ago – now it appears they are mainly fighting their equal numbers on the other side simply because they exist. I really liked this overarching sense of smallness that sat across the film and I enjoyed finding it being employed in even the smallest detail – in the attitude of a minor character through to the cheap "do not unplug" text scrawled on the wall (those that work in older offices will know this feeling). Alfredson is bang on the money with this feeling, it is part of the story and it is brilliantly delivered throughout.

Speaking of brilliant delivery, the cast is deep in British talent and unsurprisingly they deliver. Oldman may not have won the Oscar but he is great here – working with restraint and doing so much. He does so much with minor reactions and movements and he is a great character. He is the lead here but alongside him is a cast that is hard not to just list – Cumberbach, Hurt, Jones, Firth, Burke, Graham, Hardy and so on; British all perhaps but it says a lot that almost all of the supporting players here will be recognised internationally. Everyone gives strong performances and everyone seems to understand what Alfredson is doing.

Overall, this is a great film albeit one that is not as easy to follow as those impatient snobs would have you believe. It is OK to struggle with some aspects and it is still easy to enjoy the film. The plot engaged me but what stayed with me more than anything else was how it all seemed so unimportant, how those involved were all working to ignore the irrelevance of their work and how very tired this world seemed – this aspect was very well done and made the film as much as Oldman's strong central performance.
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James Bond, this is not...
the_rattlesnake2517 September 2011
Forty-six year old Swedish director Tomas Alfredson came to prominence three years ago when he directed the film adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel 'Let The Right One In'. After the initial success of the vampiric romantic drama, Alfredson became attached to an international adaptation of John le Carre's espionage-novel 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'. Based on aspects of le Carre's (also known as David Cornwell) experiences during his time as a member of the British Intelligence service sectors MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s, Alfredson creates a fine, absorbing picture which engrosses from beginning to end.

Control (John Hurt), the leader of an unknown sector of the British Intelligence service, is ousted along with his long-standing companion George Smiley (Gary Oldman) due to a botched operation in Budapest, Hungary which saw the officer Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) murdered in public. Control was under the impression that there was a mole among the top ranking members of the service, referred to as the Circus by the other top ranking members due to its location in Cambridge Circus, London, and Smiley is drawn out of retirement to pinpoint the culprit after Control passes away. Alongside the young Intelligence officer Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), Smiley has four primary candidates to focus his investigation upon; they are the last remaining members of the Circus, Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds) and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik).

Utilizing an all-star, established cast, Alfredson allows the film to unfold at an almost flawless pace. Every sequence contains a small snippet of information which allows the viewer to conduct their own investigation alongside that of Smiley's. While the narrative is also driven along by strong performances from the primarily male cast, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik, Stephen Graham and Kathy Burke all give strong, commanding performances. While the true artists of the piece are Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the young, and somewhat naive intelligent officer assigned to assist Smiley. John Hurt as the aging, instinct-driven leader of the British service, and Tom Hardy, who is Ricki Tarr the dirty cleaner for British intelligence's most fowl operations. Their performances go above and beyond in their supporting roles, and at times eclipse Gary Oldman's subdued portrayal of a man drawn back into the murky world of corruption, betrayal and treasure.

Alongside the narrative and its cast, one of the more surprising aspects of the film, is Alfredson, Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and Editor Dino Jonsater's use of stylistic nuances that further enhance the viewing experience. Lingering close-up shots of seemingly insignificant objects and shallow focus shots constantly evoke the nature of mystery and intrigue which surrounds such clandestine organisations. Alfredson never rushes any moment, instead he allows for the audience to become accustomed to their surroundings and appreciate their beauty. Wide angle shots and long lenses are used for interior and exterior locations, showcasing the breakdowns of their interiors, while close-up shots are used to examine objects and characters in their most frail states. During the opening sequence involving Prideaux's botched secret mission, a simple concoction of jump cuts and lingering static shots concentrating upon various characters within the vicinity creates a sense of the tension, suspense and vulnerability of the situation and this is how Alfredson constantly keeps the audience engrossed. By providing those observing the action on screen with just enough information that they themselves become entwined within Smiley's investigation as he moves forward.

Once the credits and a dedication to the films screenwriter Bridget O'Connor who passed away last year finish, the viewer is left with an overriding sense of satisfaction. Smiley's world is a far cry away from the glitz and glamour that the espionage genre has become accustomed to. There are no martinis in sight, but only reel upon reel of bureaucratic wrangling, childish bickering and greed-induced deal-making, where it seems everybody is working for themselves and their reputation rather than the nation's government that is employing them. Since its premiere at the 68th Venice International Film Festival 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' has been touted as an Oscar contender and it is easy to understand why, Tomas Alfredson has taken a solid source novel, utilized an established cast and infused the final concoction with elements from his own visual repertoire to create a wonderfully crafted film that does the original BBC televised series justice.
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Class all the way through
kevdrury-117 September 2011
I have been eagerly awaiting this production for a long time and have not been disappointed. Never have I seen such a compilation of such fabulous performances together. No way is this another James Bond, it is how the world of espionage was, and is today. No car chases in Aston Martins or gadgets but a world of seedy little offices and the grim reality of this genre. What had the greatest impact on myself was the slow deep menace conveyed by all. Difficult to single out any one performance as all were amazing but I particularly admired Gary Oldman, Mark Strong and Tom Hardy for their work. At times this film has some unexpected moments of shocking cruelty. Complex character portrayal is presented in a slow deep style that only inspires you to know more about the person. The story itself is a classic and known by many, yet this production introduces a few changes which work well. One of the most absorbing and classy movies I have seen and has left a lasting impact on me. Please, please, please, make Smiley's People now.
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Brain not brawn
timdiggles21 September 2011
It really is interesting to read the above reviews. I've just come back from seeing it and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I wondered if for people who hadn't read the book or seen the TV series it would make sense, and obviously it doesn't. It also doesn't fit the change in perception that the current generation have needing an edit at least every 5 seconds and a linear storyline, that's not ageist, just what we in a much older generation have left as our inheritance, sadly. I really enjoyed the film references whether they are intentional or not, they range from Rear Window to La Nuit Americaine to Mr Bean's Holiday to Godard. Gary Oldman as Smiley is very good, much colder that AG and as in the book a bit younger. It is also less of the feel of a group of Oxbridge Dons in charge rather ex servicemen as MI5 was in those days. I was in my 20's in the early 1970's and the general dullness of everything during that time comes through very well. I would think that after they edited it they wished they hadn't had some rather crass graffiti so prominent, but I remember it was all over London at that time. Good film with a plot that makes you concentrate and you have to use your brain, well worth seeing, but don't go if you want thrills and spills.
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A Genuine Achievement
imagiking17 September 2011
Boldly announcing himself upon the stage of international cinema with 2009's Let the Right One In, the significant critical and commercial acclaim accorded director Thomas Alfredson clearly proved him a filmmaker capable of pulling off high quality adaptations of complex and dark literary sources.

Called back into service to uncover the identity of a Soviet mole at the height of the Cold War, retired British intelligence operative George Smiley is tasked with unwinding a vastly convoluted web of conspiracy, codenames, double agents, and deceit.

The movement from relatively low-budget foreign language filmmaking to helming star casts in comparably costly productions is one that, historically, holds significant risk for directorial careers. Add to the mix the danger of bringing a much-loved novel to life on screen, and Alfredson is certainly faced with a substantial task. An espionage thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy—based on John le Carré's book—throws an extremely layered narrative at its audience and insists they keep up, making little in the way of allowance for those accustomed to excess plot exposition. Concerning an approximate dozen key characters—most of whom go by at least two names—the film contains a considerable quantity of raw information to be processed, particularly considering its reserved pace; the camera scrolls slowly across the screen in step with the story's measured progression, constantly moving along yet never losing the integral tension of its hastelessness. Alfredson and screenwriters Bridget O' Connor and Peter Straughan demonstrate a keenness for the more tensely-oriented end of the genre, delving into an atmosphere of unease rather than one of brisk spy action. There is almost an air of claustrophobia to much of the film, the caliginous cinematography and mysterious score combining to evoke an aura of noir paranoia. Much like Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy boasts a thrilling visual panache; indeed, Hoyte van Hoytema's cinematography is oftentimes so remarkably involving that entire scenes may pass by without any absorption of the dialogical details disclosed therein—the brain is simply too overcome by the aesthetic bombardment of visual pleasure to decipher the explicit aural signals. One particular shot—an extreme close-up of Smiley's wearied face draped in shadow— affords the audience the time to study the furrowed ridges of his forehead and the weighted bags of his eyelids, giving us an entitled sense of knowledge of, and familiarity with, this character. It seems almost redundant to offer praise to the film's extraordinary cast; a brief glance at the list of exemplary names will disclose the sheer calibre of talent on display: a veritable dream team of the finest names of modern British cinema. From Firth to Hurt, Hardy to Cumberbatch, Oldman to Dencik, the phenomenal cast plays beautifully together, each actor inhabiting their character with award-courting flair. Where Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy really shines is in its characterisation—an all-too often underutilised aspect in this genre—each of them distinctly human rather than simply mouths through which the plot developments are channelled. Their primary concern may be with their espionage, but ours is with them: exploring their motivations; their private lives; their loyalties; and just how a career like theirs affects an existence. A recurring Christmas party scene revisited a number of times throughout the film reminds us regularly that these intelligence agents are not solely extensions of the government's facilities, but rather human beings with emotions, afflicted by the agonies of their toils, burying themselves in vodka-laced punch to just get away from it all.

Hitting all the right notes in its performances, script, and direction, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy triumphantly infuses a challengingly multifarious narrative with a deeper humanity, questioning by proxy the way in which devotion to duty affects all aspects of our lives. Shot with unforgettable effulgence—committing to memory eternal every last contour of Oldman's storied brow—it is a genuine achievement in cinematic storytelling.
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The Fact It's Uncinematic Is A Major Problem
Theo Robertson9 September 2013
John Le Carre is without doubt one of the literary greats of the late 20th Century . A master of complex story telling his novels are often composed of characters standing around discussing complicated geo-political situations and the human condition . This means that his novels are fundamentally uncinematic , a fact reflected that so little of his work has been adapted to the silver screen . With this adaptation of his 1974 novel I doubt if anyone was expecting a James Bond thriller and I know I wasn't but even so you're struck as to how a Le Carre thriller doesn't lend itself to mainstream cinema

You can't fault the film for its production values . It contains a who's who of prestigious big hitting British character actors such as Oldman , Hurt and Firth alongside up and coming peers such as Hardy and Cumberbatch . We also get a host of under rated actors in Strong and Burke and at a casting level none of this can be faulted . The look of the film is fantastic with the brownish dull hues reflecting both Communist Eastern Europe and run down Britain in the early 1970s and a day after seeing the movie my abiding memory of the film is the cinematography

The problem is that - and I'm afraid to admit this - is that I didn't have a clue what was going on most of the time . A British agent is shot and caputured in Hungary and MI6 believes he was set up by a mole . I understood this but then we cut to a character after character discussing who the mole might be , do we have a mole and we don't have a mole and very soon I was very lost . This film topped the film charts in Britain for a grand total of three weeks and one suspects by way of a backhanded compliment many people went to the cinema for a second and third time in order to unravel the plot . This is all well and good but illustrates the fact highly regarded novels often don't lend themselves to great cinema . Let's not forget two of the most memorable movies of the 1970s THE GODFATHER and JAWS were based on novels dismissed as trash
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The classic Cold War spy thriller turned into a ravishing looking thinking man's thriller
alan-chan-158-45149117 September 2011
I have not read the book nor seen the 1979 landmark series that garnered so much acclaim for the BBC and Sir Alec Guinness, but such contextualisation is not needed to recognise that this version of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' is a masterful re-telling of John le Carré's seminal work about British espionage during the Cold War. An early scene really encapsulates the whole tone and mood of the film. A retired George Smiley (played majestically by Gary Oldman) is sitting at home and enjoying a documentary about Winston Churchill (which seems suitably apt for a man of his former position) when his doorbell suddenly and unexpectedly rings. His head turns slowly to the left in the direction of the impudent sound and the instantaneous look of sheer effrontery and disdain on Oldman's face will leave you chuckling as his peaceful reverie is rudely disturbed. Such scenes like this leaven the film with humour but ultimately this is a chamber piece; expertly played by the cream of British acting talent headed by Goldman and Hurt (who incidentally could also have been a great George Smiley) and told with a languid verve that unravels the complex plotting in a series of tableaux vivants laden with mystery and suspense, but which also acts as important plot points and clues.

The film is about the hunt for a Soviet 'mole' in the highest echelons of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6 but fictitiously known as 'The Circus') by George Smiley, an intelligence officer who has been brought out of forced retirement by Oliver Lacon, the Civil Service overseer of the Circus. Through a love affair with the wife of a Russian intelligence officer, a British agent, Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) discovers that there may be a high ranking Soviet mole within the Circus. Aided by Peter Guillam (Bendedict Cumberbatch) who is Tarr's handler, Smiley sets about uncovering the mole without the knowledge of Circus leadership, anyone of whom might be the mole, headed by Percy Alleline (Toby Jones) and his deputies Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds) and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) – the 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' of the book (codenames assigned by Control, Head of British Secret Service).

The director, Tomas Alfredson, established his reputation with 'Let the Right One In', an icy Swedish romantic horror that dealt with relationships and this too, is a film about human nature, moral dilemmas and relationships – friendship, loyalty and betrayal on intimate and grand scales with personal and national implications. Like 'Let the Right One In' Alfredson imbues 'Tinker, Tailor', Soldier, Spy' (his first English language feature) with somnambulistic pacing and mood that requires the audience to be patient, but this is richly rewarded with scenes, shot after shot, that ravish the eye and heavy with period atmosphere and drama. James Bond this is not and George Smiley has more in common with Harry Palmer than Ian Fleming's vigorous secret agent. Indeed, Robert De Niro's admirable treatment of the early history of the Criminal Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 'The Good Shepherd' (2006) has a similar cipher in Edward Wilson – a 'grey man' whose very ordinariness renders him invisible to counter espionage and thus makes him the perfect intelligence operative. A raised voice towards the end of 'Tinker, Tailor' is as excited as Smiley gets but for those not familiar with the story the ending will leave you with a broad smile of satisfaction as the 'grey man' (note Smiley's grey hair, grey countenance and grey suit replete with over-sized glasses and shambling gait) of the secret intelligence service wins the day.

The screenwriters, Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O'Connor, have done an exceptional job in condensing down what is clearly a labyrinthine Cold War thriller into a classic two hour potboiler without losing any of its exposition, characters, and plotting. John le Carré and his fans will be proud. This is a thinking man's film about a period of recent history that is as murky as it is exciting and relevant today with its eternal themes of friendship, loyalty and national security. There must be many more stories of espionage to mine from both sides of the Iron Curtain and I do hope this film kick starts a renewed interest in telling the stories of the Cold War warriors who shaped the modern world. If the film does 'King's Speech' levels of business I think it just might and Hollywood would be the richer for it.
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The fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt
petra_ste12 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Since I am a fan of both John Le Carré and Gary Oldman, this looked like a perfect match. For once I was not disappointed: Tinker Tailor is a fine adaptation and a masterful spy thriller.

(Now do Smiley's People, please, keeping Oldman and the same writers. The Honourable Schoolboy we can skip, as it's both harder to adapt and, to be honest, not quite as good as the other two Quest for Karla books).

Oldman, one of the most versatile actors around, is phenomenal as George Smiley. Smiley - Le Carré 's owlish, middle-aged spy who is essentially the anti-James Bond - investigates a Russian double agent inside the British Secret Service. Oldman perfectly captures both Smiley's wounded humanity and his keen intelligence - a quiet, unassuming man who, in the dangerous world of spy games, can turn into a skilled hunter.

The stellar supporting cast - including John Hurt, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, David Dencik and Ciaran Hinds - is also excellent. I have to say Hinds is underserved by the otherwise perfect script though; his Roy Bland (nomen omen...) is the only significant character who remains a blank. Everyone else is so well-sketched, he sort of sticks out.

Director Tomas Alfredson crafts a meticulous, intelligent movie, one which requires attention but rewards it with a tense, compelling viewing experience, the thinking man's thriller.

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This is how a Spy thriller should be made!
estebangonzalez1018 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
¨It's the oldest question of all, George. Who can spy on the spies? ¨

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy might just be my favorite movie of the year. Director Tomas Alfredson caught my attention a few years ago with his Swedish film Let the Right One in, which in my opinion is the best vampire film I've seen. This is a very different movie, but he still uses very similar techniques. He shoots several shots from a distance which sort of sets the mood of the story dealing with espionage, the setting is also very dark and grayish, and the story moves at a pretty slow pace, but at the same time the mystery and thrills are always there. This is how a spy thriller should be made; it's about as realistic as any spy film could ever be. I'm sorry for all those Mission Impossible, James Bond, and Jason Bourne fans, but this is a far more superior thriller. Perhaps the action isn't as entertaining or as easy to follow, but if you stick with this movie and put your complete attention specifically on these characters the result is truly satisfying. This isn't a popcorn movie you can watch while you're doing something else; you have to devote time and attention to it. My greatest fear is that viewers are becoming so numbed by mindless action scenes and special effects that we don't even want to think about a movie while we're watching it. Sometimes we just want to feel entertained, but we're not willing to spend time focusing on the story and what is going on. We want everything put in front of us and don't want to try to discover things on our own. If that is the case then Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not the movie for you, but if you are into a well crafted mystery thriller than you will be in for a pleasant surprise like I was. This was one of the greatest viewing experiences I've had this year.

The movie takes place during the Cold War and its set in 1973 London. One of the head members of the British Intelligence Service, named Control (John Hurt), sends one of his agents (Mark Strong) on a special mission to Budapest. Control tells Jim that he received important and confidential information about one of his four top spies being a mole, which would explain why the Russians have been up to date with what is going on in England. Control's four head spies are Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), and Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), and he believes one of them is the mole. Control evens suspects his right hand man, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), so he orders Jim to go to Budapest and meet with his contact to find out who the traitor is. He has a code name for each one of the spies (tinker, tailor, soldier, and poorman). When Jim arrives at Budapest the mission goes wrong and it's clear to Control that the traitor has found out and blown the mission once again. Control is forced to retire after the Budapest fiasco along with George Smiley. A year later Control passes away and one of the British ministers hires Smiley to discover who the mole is after he receives a phone call from a disappeared agent named Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy) who claims to have information about the traitor. Smiley begins investigating with the help of another agent named Benedict Cumberbatch (Peter Guillam) and begins piecing things together through a series of interesting and eye-opening flashbacks.

The story is just really well made, it's really smart, there is a lot of talking going on, and not much action, but it forces you to pay attention to every small detail of the movie. Once the movie is over, you feel like watching it all over again because you feel like you had missed some important details. I really loved this film and was completely satisfied with the movie. The performances are just great, Gary Oldman steals the show. He is so quiet and emotionless; what a really good spy probably looks like. You never know what is going through his mind, but you cant help but think he knows what he's doing. Then there is Tom Hardy who is always great. He is probably the person who shows more emotion in this movie, but he is brilliant. Peter Guillam, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, and John Hurt are all terrific as well. The movie really has a seventies feel to it and I don't think you can get closer to that time better than how Alfredson did. The casting, the setting, the filming, the editing, the soundtrack, everything about this film is just perfect. This film, along with Drive, were the best experiences I had with a movie this year. It isn't a sexy or entertaining film, it will require your complete attention, but the payoff is completely worth it. The screenplay was also really well adapted from the John Le Carre lengthy novel. They were able to condense the story into two hours which is much shorter than the seven hour BBC television version starring Alec Guinness. I really loved this film and absolutely recommend it over any other spy thriller.

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Stinker, paler, borer why?
Lejink2 July 2014
I know my limits. I just couldn't follow the plot of this labyrinthine movie adapted from John Le Carre's novel, which had previously been made into an award-winning BBC TV series with Alec Guinness as spy-catcher George Smiley. That itself had been a multi-part production but here the action, or should that be inaction, is condensed into a still lengthy two and a half-hour film.

It seemed that every time I picked up a plot thread, it led me down an inconclusive side-road with no real drama at any point. Even the revelation of the mole in the British Secret Service was delivered unspectacularly, in keeping with the dogmatic realism of the rest of the narrative. Plot-lines circle round and turn in on themselves but ended up only dizzying my perceptive powers.

The cream of contemporary British acting talent, old and young, pretty much is the whole cast but I didn't get any sense of the actors really inhabiting their parts. Gary Oldman's playing is very much in the shadow of Guinness and no-one else distinguished themselves in my eyes. They may have been in the book, I guess but strange scenes, like Smiley taking a constitutional swim in a public place or the Secret Service office party, just sort of occur, although to what end I'm not entirely sure. Apart from hearing the odd stray song on the soundtrack or sighting a vintage car in the streets, I hardly got the impression that this was the 70's at all. There were no news inserts or political issues to reference the times, leaving the story to unfold in a musty, grey netherworld, vaguely Kafka-ish in tone.

Which may well have been the point. All I know is this film failed to connect with me at all and was a major disappointment for this particular viewer in almost very respect.
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Huge Disappointment
b2tall21 April 2012
The acting was first-rate. The adaptation was horrible. There are so many holes in the plot I felt as though I missed the first 15 minutes of the movie......you know, the part where we're supposed to see the birth of the story line and some character development. Anyone who wasn't already familiar with the book would be completely lost. It's like I was watching part 2 of a two-part miniseries without having seen part 1. It was beyond disjointed. Did Cirian Hinds even have any lines in the movie?? He was in scene after scene but I don't remember him saying anything.

In any case, I was hugely disappointed in this film. The BBC miniseries with Alec Guiness is vastly superior.
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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sigh
Mac-14812 February 2012
The first episode of the BBC series sets the tone perfectly, introducing the key players and telling us what kind of people they are, all by just having them enter a room for a meeting without saying a word. The trouble with the movie version is that we never get the chance to know the characters. They are faceless people with difficult names and we don't care which one of them is the bad guy. I have read the book at least three times, seen the TV series twice and was still totally confused by the movie. Anyone who hasn't read the book, I would suggest, doesn't stand a chance. The grimy landscape around the Hotel Islay was nicely done. But why make every scene grimy? Where was the circus? Where were the lights of Shaftsbury Avenue? Where were the green fields around Jim Prideaux's prep school? The key scene with Connie Sachs is destroyed by a totally out-of-place crudity and the climax, when the mole is revealed, is thrown away with zero drama. What was going on?
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A Nordic View Of A Very British Tale
littlemartinarocena9 December 2011
Freezing. John Le Carre's spy story has a new version. Tomas Alfredson the Swedish director of the chillingly great "Let The Righ On In" understands the British climate. Impersonal raincoats wore by the very personal Gary Oldman are only part of the story. An undercurrent of passionate wheelings and dealings with poker face players makes for an engrossing tale that allows us some kind of distance. The production design is a masterpiece on its on. Just look at the wallpapers. I'm not going to venture into the actual plot but the performances. Gary Oldman is superb in a slightly younger and more virile version of Alec Guinness who played George Smiley in a celebrated British miniseries in 1979. Colin Firth's bisexual turn brings a dark sort of lightness to the proceedings. Tom Hardy is also superb as are Mark Strong and John Hurt. If you're a Le Carre fan you'll be enthralled, if you're not you may become one.
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Small pleasures, big impact
jjagnosia8 January 2012
Clearly wasted on the attention-deficit cohort, this slow-burner rewards the effort and concentration you give it tenfold. It is only when you see the characterisation that cinema is capable of, in films like this, that you realise how crudely drawn and unsatisfying most performances are at the moment. Others have commented on the plot, but that is not the most interesting part of Tinker Tailor. It is the pulse that is palpable in the small static moments, where every image and gesture seems to thrum with an expectation of something wrong; a jarring discord that never lets the audience settle. You are brought into the personae of the characters in a way that makes you feel culpable; never letting you off the hook morally. This film is so good - packed with a thousand tiny pleasures - that it is sad that not everyone loves it. I wish it had had the confident US release that it deserved.
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Directed by a cinematographer, not a story teller
scaevola25 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I've both read the book and watched the TV miniseries starring Alec Guinness. But the film has to stand on it's own. I don't think it did. I became increasingly disappointed as the film progressed. The ending was an absolute fizzle.

The director spends too much time on long empty pauses, getting from here to there, and sitting quietly in ugly rooms. The film seems to be more about getting good "shots" than telling a cohesive and gripping story. Even the more tense moments devolve into mere 'business.' Yawn. I imagine some people were lost. I know I was in spots. I also imagine some people just didn't care by the end.

Some of the director's more dubious choices pulled me right out of the film. Did we need to keep seeing the chess pieces? Got it the first time. The shot of Control dead in the hospital felt clumsy and disconnected. Why waste all that time with Smiley swimming in muddy water? We get it. Move on. The Christmas party flashbacks interrupted the story with no value added. And the time wasted in buying new glasses so we can tell future from past was clumsy and sophomoric. Cumberbatch played his big scene beautifully, but the device of making him gay was ludicrous. Honestly, a gay partner in this world would NOT be secret.

I'd trade all of that for a bit more character development. I had trouble placing—or caring about—the players throughout. Smiley was especially flat and remote—his sharp intelligence and drive lost in empty silence. The meeting with Connie could have been a poignant reminder of the Circus that was, but here it's just a plot device. No Karla? That scene should have been a mine of material about these two titans, yet we get a flat narrative.

If the effort made in manipulating our visual field was spent on the story, this could have been so much more. Instead, it falls far short of engaging us in a very personalized tale of betrayal and the decades- long manipulation of an entire service.
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Watch the TV series instead
enochsneed31 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I really wanted to enjoy this film. I watch the 1979 TV series at least once a year and was looking forward to a new, dark, edgy take on a well-loved story.

I was very disappointed. First, the plot is mashed up (for example Ricki Tarr, who should set Smiley's mole hunt in motion, does not appear until the half-way point). Secondly, characters are not developed and even altered (Percy Alleline is a peevish bully, rather than an over-promoted pompous buffoon who has been suckered into giving the KGB a pipeline into Western intelligence, and Peter Guillam is fashionably gay). We don't even get any sense of Bill Haydon's motivation to turn double agent apart from a throwaway line about the West being "rather horrible". Colin Firth does make more of Haydon's frustration at working for an increasingly impotent power - Britain - when he wants to make a mark on History and therefore turns to a more dynamic force which he believes the USSR to be.

There is no suspense in the key scenes where Peter Guillam steals a top secret file from the archives, or even in the revelation of the mole. What Hitchcock could have done with these sequences! One scene which did work for me on a symbolic level was the Christmas party. This is original to the film but does suggest how the British intelligence service (and, by implication, Britain itself) has become lazy and hedonistic, and is losing its grip.

Gary Oldman totally fails to capture George Smiley's self-deprecating intelligence. We get no indication of Smiley piecing together a jigsaw and realising what the 'Witchcraft' project really means. Film-makers often confuse British reserve with unemotional stolidity, and Oldman walks straight into that trap.

The cinematography looks good, with shadowy interiors suggesting the claustrophobia of the world of espionage, but the design for the Circus HQ is all wrong - it is not a huge open-plan office, but a series of small, seedy little rooms.

All in all this was a huge disappointment. I came straight home from the cinema and put the BBC series back into my DVD player.
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The Emperor's New Clothes
technical024 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As the title suggests, I feel it can only be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes when reviewers commend this as a classic and brilliant film. In a discussion with a friend of mine I was also treated to the same rhetoric when I disagreed - that I must be some kind of unintelligent heathen who only likes simple action films. Not so, unfortunately. Rather, I just spent the last two hours being bored to within an inch of my life. Only because I thought there must be something coming that justified said glowing reviews did I not leave the theatre, but it turned out to be as bad a decision as going in there in the first place.

The film setting is pretty much the most dismal and dreary image of 1970's England imaginable. Everything is brown or grey, dirty and uninspiring, as if looking through the eyes of a severely depressed individual. We are treated to endless scenes of characters simply moving from one dreary location to another, and then sitting there not speaking. Smiley, whilst brilliantly acted by Oldman, seems incapable of responding to any dialog without first a 30 second pause of suspended animation. The majority of the rest of the characters comprised a bunch of sour, rude and miserable old men, none of which I developed even the slightest compassion for.

The basic story of the film is the discovery of a mole in MI6, except that since MI6 appeared to consist of the most miserable human beings on the planet then really, who cares if they find the mole or not? In fact, why not leave the mole there since he's the only thing that's even vaguely interesting. The mole is, of course, finally uncovered in a scene that typifies the film: another brown room, two miserable old men not speaking and not moving.

Cinematography also seems to be another buzzword to use here, so let's address it. To be fair, some nice use of the camera does add a modicum of style, but it's nothing that hasn't been done before, and if anything it's overused to the point where it gets in the way of the film and becomes tiresome.

It's not that there aren't some good points, there are. There are a few well done scenes, the acting is good, and the younger characters do infuse some life into the plot. However, unfortunately these islands of relief are few and far between, and the result was two and a bit of the most dreary and uninspiring hours of my life.
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A complete waste of money and time
teddyfridgie6 February 2012
This film is superfluous. And worse, it muddies the well of memories from the superb TV production. From the advertising and trailers I had seen before, I had thought I should see this, but I shouldn't have gone. Nobody should. Very poor casting, the story brutally trimmed back to what (and where it) was cheap to film, and all mixed up anyway as the writer seemed keen on avoiding the examples of the preceding production, and of the book. My goodness, they made a ridiculous dwarf out of Percy Alleline, and a beau out of Bill Hayden, as if they thought the audience would not understand their roles otherwise. Agreed, Le Carres original novels are complex, and rich of detail, wit and character, so not really suited for the mass market. This film seems to be an attempt to reduce the detail and refinery of the novel in order to make it all better digestible for the people who are not fond of detail and refinery. Consequently, this film is not a work of art, but one of shameless exploitation of the fame and publicity of the original. I was utterly disappointed, and feel compelled to warn people of it.: Give this one a miss. Go buy and watch the TV series instead.
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Every time I watch it I see something new.
katcoviello12 September 2017
I love this movie. I have found that everyone in my household also loves this film. This includes people from the baby boomer generation, Gen X, and a teenager. The hazy, monochromatic tone and slow pace gradually draws you into another time and every time I watch it I discover new details, hints and clues that were previously missed. Yes, it is a little confusing the first time you watch it, but ride it out. Watch it again. I guarantee you'll grow an appreciation for it.
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Looking for depth and found dull
freeride_197316 April 2012
This is quite possibly the dullest film I have ever seen. I was hoping for something a little more engaging on a Sunday afternoon but struggled to stay awake through it. It is a fairly simple story line and you know where it is going but instead of a tale with twists and turns it takes a basic linear path. In order to feign complexity all the Director did was cut up the time line. It didn't help that they focused on a particular character in a certain way which was out of context with how other characters were dealt with. Why did they do that? Oh because he is the bad guy. I was hoping that was a red herring. Unfortunately not, the guy I thought it would be 30 minutes into the film was indeed the bad guy. Clumsy, pseudo intelligent, uncreative, dullness.
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Great Looking Film but Very Confusing
Michael_Elliott30 January 2012
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

*** (out of 4)

Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, a retired British agent who is placed back into the field to try and uncover the identity a mole within the ranks of the M16's who is giving information to Russia. TINKER TAYLOR SOLDIER SPY, adapted from John le Carre's novel, is certainly a very well-made movie and it features some terrific performances but I must admit that I got lost several times. It seems most people are commenting that they can't figure out the story and it seems many people are hating the movie for this and I can't blame them. However, even though I couldn't figure out all of the plot points, this type of confusion reminded me of THE BIG SLEEP with Humphrey Bogart, another movie where you couldn't follow the story but that didn't take away from the entertainment. Director Tomas Alfredson (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN) does a marvelous job at keeping the film moving at a good pace even though it's deliberately a very slow one. It seems like the director wants to get every bit of detail within the frame so there are very slow, drawn out sequences where not much happens but you can look around and just about everything will grab your attention because you never know if it's a clue or not. I really loved the cold atmosphere that he brought to the film and it's almost identical to his vampire movie. The other very strong point is that you got some terrific actors doing strong work. Oldman is so great here that I'm surprised he's gotten as much attention as he has. This isn't James Bond and there's not a single bit of flash to his character but that's what makes the performance so great. I'm sure most actors would have wanted to add more flair to the part and this is something that Oldman did in many of his early great performances. He doesn't do that here and instead he really gives such a low-key performance that you just sit there riveted because his eyes tell you everything you need to know. What also impressed me was the way he came off to be constantly thinking about everything he's taking in. Several actors have talked that it's important to listen and think while on camera and Oldman does that brilliantly here. It certainly doesn't hurt that you have impressive support by Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, David Hencik, John Hurt and Tom Hardy. Again, the story makes very little sense or at least to me, someone who hasn't read the novel but everything else is just so perfectly done that the film remains entertaining.
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Textbook Failure
vespet200016 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Many people here dislike the movie but are satisfied with the TV version and/or the book. Well, judging from the film, the spy story itself is ridiculous on so many levels. Le Carre, as a former spy should have known better.

The opening scene in Budapest that sets everything in motion, sadly, doesn't pass the laughing test. A British undercover agent is to meet a potential defector - a Hungarian general who is willing to reveal to the British ultra-important information about a Soviet mole at the very top of MI6. Why would this general use a go-between and thus increase the chances of being discovered, exposing his go-between (probably a dear and trusted friend) to a mortal danger? It's absurd.

The Budapest operation had already been betrayed, however, and the Russians know. So they are supposed to be in full control - remember, the stakes couldn't have been higher. Instead, they let a sloppy Hungarian agent mimic nervously in front of everybody and let sweat drop in front of the British spy among other revealing signs and yet the British spook omits all those. Then the stupid Hungarian agent shoots the fleeing Brit, why, when they can just surround the place and apprehend him???? Only after all this nonsense takes place, some Russian spy chief pops out of nowhere and shouts that everybody is stupid.

A young woman breast-feeds there right in the middle of it, sitting in the open, in the cold, so that she gets shot in the head by mistake - the bullet aimed at the fleeing spy takes a left and ends up inside her brains contrary to real life ballistics. How cruel can the spy world be! Really? How dumber and more contrived can this go?

Then, the captured Brit is tortured, why, when the Russians have this much better informed mole, higher, at the very top of MI6. And then the Russian master spy, named Karla (because that's how Le Carre wants to present him - a master) lets the Brit back to the UK, so that he would tell how he was tortured, how they unnecessarily blew the brains out of a young nice woman in front of him absolutely for no reason, and most importantly, the captured British agent had talked to the mole before leaving for Budapest. So if he is let back to the UK, he would immediately point at the all important mole as the potential source of the information that betrayed the entire Budapest operation. This officially makes Karla, the worst agent-runner in history, despite Le Carre's half-baked attempts to make him a master spy.

But it is not only the Russian "master" spies who are stupid. So are the British: when the mole (played by Firth) is finally caught and in custody, the British let him outside the safe house, in the open (???), nobody guarding him (???) so that everybody who wants revenge or just to shut his mouth can easily sneak in and put a bullet in his head, no sweat. Really? This is how the British will keep their uber-important detainee? The man who is supposed to give them some idea how much damage has been done, how many operations have been compromised???

And this goes on and on ..., nothing makes sense in the "spy" story.

The director is employing a series of cheap shots to impress the easily impressionable - the young breastfeeding woman, the completely unnecessary violence all along. The story is boring, as many already pointed out, incoherent from A to Z.

On a personal level, Smiley, as smart and deeply intellectual as he pretentiously is supposed to be, finds out his wife is cheating on him only by chance, simply because she is so careless that she makes out with the mole at some ridiculously set party at the MI6 headquarters. I thought he was supposed to be able to read people, if he is so good. It turns out his wife was betraying him every step of the way.

Most of the characters are 2-dimensional at best, John Hurt's Control is a caricature of a human being, who would allow a person with such unhinged behavior to be the head of British intelligence? We've heard about British eccentricity and propensity for alcohol, but how do you go up in such a hierarchy with behavior that outrageous?

The gay element also seems contrived. For obvious political correctness. Since we all heard how some of those Soviet moles in MI6 were homosexual, here comes Le Carre (or the director) to remind us that gays can also be the good gays who catch moles. And sacrifice their personal lives, for the cause. This is sophisticated world, people, make no mistake.

We don't learn anything about most of the characters and their motivation with very few exceptions, such as the British rogue agent in Istanbul, who wants to save a Russian damsel in distress just out of some basic human decency. This, give or take, is the only plausible event in the whole story.

Oldman's acting is reasonable but nothing extraordinary, although I found some elements of his performance rather pretentious than anything else. But it could only be me.

The director employs clichés that I'm sure the cinema-snobbery would fawn over. For example, the main character, Oldman/Smiley is shown several times swimming in some pond with deep, deep, dark, dirty waters. So if you are so dumb and not getting it how Smiley is swimming in the dangerous and muddy waters of international espionage, here comes the director of this movie with his mind-blowing 'symbolism', generously helping you out.

The film was tremendous disappointment for me, especially since I saw some of the ads on British TV, presenting it as something like the best spy thriller ever. What?
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One of my most anticipated movies of the year, and I wasn't let down!
TheLittleSongbird17 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Ever since I first heard of this Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I knew I wanted to see it. Primarily because of the cast, with Gary Oldman and John Hurt two of the best underrated actors today, Colin Firth a vast majority of the time delivering solid to marvellous work, Mark Strong who impresses me more and more every time I see him and Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch two of the most promising young stars working now.

Another point of interest is its source material and the 1979 version. At first, I did find the book somewhat a slow-burner and not to easy to get into. On repeat readings however, I do find it a compelling and very interesting piece of work. I had heard much about the 1979 version, and when I saw it I was more than impressed. It was tense, involving, I connected to the characters and Alec Guinness' performance in it for me was one of his most memorable and iconic of his very great career.

About this Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy it did have a lot to live up to, considering how great the book and the Alec Guinness version were. And I think it succeeds, it admirably condenses a very difficult book which I imagine is a daunting task, and does extremely well on its own merits too(which is how I will judge the film). At first, like the book it is a slow-burner to start with, but once the tension rises, the story gets going and more characters introduced the film becomes more absorbing. The ending I agree was a little rushed, but I personally didn't find it too convoluted.

I did find that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was very well made. The period recreation was wonderfully evoked, and even better than that it was authentic. The cinematography was also impressive, perhaps grainy, but it did suit the gritty, menacing tone of the film and atmosphere very well. The music is electrifying, it does play a subtle part in some scenes but also adds to any scene that is tense or shocking. The direction consistently is assured and don't fall into the trap of being too artsy.

The script is thoughtful and has the basic feel of the prose of the book. The story as I have said is slow to start with, and it is a good idea for those who haven't read the book or seen the 1979 version to have a good enough idea of it before watching, but the number of shocking scenes such as the killing of Hardy's love interest and Firth's character's demise and the atmosphere throughout kept me interested and thrilled. Also the part where Ciaron Hinds' character hums the George Formby song, it was terrifying in a way that they'd been listening in but Cumberbatch's face was a picture! The pace is solid, alive to nuances and doesn't plod so much as for me to call it dull or something like that.

Characterisation wise, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn't as good as the 1979 version or the book even, but in many ways I can understand. The 1979 version did have more time and room to delve more into the characters. That said, I do commend the film in doing what it could to make the characters interesting and perhaps complex and I think any "slow" pacing helped with this rather than hindered it. I also loved that the emotion in this film is very under the surface rather than hard hitting. The acting is excellent.

Gary Oldman is superb, George Smiley is perhaps one of his more subtler performances, but nonetheless it is still commanding and one of my personal favourite performances of his. Of the support cast, the standouts are Tom Hardy, whose character apart from Smiley was the film's most interesting, and Mark Strong whose charisma and intensity still captivates. Benedict Cumberbatch I initially wasn't sure about in regard to age, but the acting was so great I forgot about any worries. Colin Firth gives his usual solid performance, Toby Jones also excels and Kathy Burke does well in a hard role. John Hurt gives his all into what he's got, which goes to show how good an actor he is, he's got some good lines and excellent delivery but the character isn't as developed well or as natural as the rest.

Overall, a very interesting and well done movie. It was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and it ended up being one of my favourites too, which is saying a lot seeing how hit-and-miss so far 2011 has been for movies. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Inevitable comparisons
naun27 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Though skilfully adapted and made with a pleasing combination of solidity and flair, this film ultimately disappoints. Its tone, grandly, cinematically sombre, strays occasionally into bathos or, at the end, barely suppressed triumphalism. At times you feel that television, an intrinsically more humdrum medium, is better suited to the moral seediness of this genre. And of course it's with its BBC television predecessor that this film invites comparison. Some things come out about even. John Hurt is a charismatic Control, even if the shortened format doesn't allow us to witness the gradual and complete disintegration of the character that Alexander Knox portrays in the BBC series. But Colin Firth brings nothing to the role of Haydon to match Ian Richardson's self-tormenting irony; it would have been interesting to see what Ciarán Hinds, already in the cast but underemployed as Roy Bland, might have done with the role. As the central character, Gary Oldman is an enigma, a man who reveals nothing of himself to others. Alec Guinness gives us something more complex, a character who reveals to others exactly what he wants them to see. In showing the light in his character, he also reveals the shadows. Oldman's Smiley is, by contrast, a hero for our modern age: we don't much care who or what he is as long as he is on our side and we win.
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