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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

4.0 3
Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy


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Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson takes the helm for this adaptation of John Le Carré's novel about an ex-British agent who emerges from retirement to expose a mole in MI6. England, 1973: British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) head Control (


Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson takes the helm for this adaptation of John Le Carré's novel about an ex-British agent who emerges from retirement to expose a mole in MI6. England, 1973: British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) head Control (John Hurt) and his top-ranking lieutenant George Smiley (Gary Oldman) are both forced into retirement after a mission involving respected secret agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) turns unexpectedly deadly. As the Cold War continues to escalate, suspicions of a Soviet double agent begin to grow within SIS. Subsequently summoned by Undersecretary Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney), Smiley is secretly reemployed by the SIS in order to root out the double agent suspected of sharing top-secret British intelligence with the Soviets. Meanwhile, as Smiley and his new partner Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) begin systematically examining all of the official missions and records involving MI6, the veteran spy can't help but recall an encounter he once had with Karla, a dangerous Russian operative, years prior. At first, uncovering the identity of the infiltrator seems nearly impossible. Smiley and Guillam get a big break, however, when undercover agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) reveals that he has fallen for a mysterious woman in Turkey named Irina (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who may have a crucial lead. Later, upon learning that Control had comprised a list of five possible suspects, code-named Tinker (Toby Jones), Tailor (Colin Firth), Soldier (Ciarán Hinds), Poor Man (David Dencik), and Beggar Man -- none other than Smiley himself -- the investigation begins to heat up again.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Director Tomas Alfredson's big-screen adaptation of John Le Carré's novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy (1974) constitutes the second filmization of the work, following an acclaimed 1979 miniseries starring Alec Guinness. Set in the early '70s, this version recasts Gary Oldman in the Guinness role, as George Smiley, a septuagenarian English spy called out of retirement to assist his former colleagues in ferreting out a Soviet "mole," rumored to have infiltrated the upper echelons of the British intelligence agency, referred to here as "the circus." Of all the ways to potentially fail in bringing its source author to the screen, Tinker avoids the most obvious and daunting pitfall: unlike, for instance, screenwriter Loring Mandel's abominable Le Carré adaptation The Little Drummer Girl (1984), it's entirely lucid. Le Carré owns a reputation for byzantine narratives with dozens of tangential subplots, and one can easily imagine a klutzy scribe trying to bring one of the author's sprawling novels to the screen and confounding the audience with minutiae. Not only does that not happen with the Alfredson film, the opposite can be said: scripters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan (Mrs. Ratcliffe's Revolution) organize the material as carefully as a jeweler piecing together the gears of a pocket watch. The film is a marvel of narrative design: each scene falls perfectly into place, contributing a necessary piece of the exposition, and although we never once feel lost within the story, only at the end does the entire schema come into focus, with two revelatory scenes where we suddenly grasp the master structure. The film also nails Le Carré's tone: it received advance praise as an "exploration" of Iron Curtain-era ethics, but "evisceration" might be a more suitable word. These are sad, bitter, isolated characters, both riddled with paranoia and (especially in Smiley's case) drained of some vital emotional dimension -- and the film repeatedly and effectively drives home its conviction that a twisted Cold War rationale, shaped by transnational brinksmanship, second-guessing and doublespeak, made each of them this way. The movie's color scheme literalizes the sense of environmental causality, with many scenes shot in open air, and yet not a single instance of direct sunlight for over two hours. This may make the film sound deadening. It isn't, primarily because of the exhilaration derived from watching an entire ensemble of outstanding British character actors -- including John Hurt, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds and Colin Firth -- working at the top of their game. Oldman, as usual, is particularly superb: though given a lead character with severely limited emotional range, he succeeds at making Smiley both convincing and persuasive, and best of all, pulls off the challenge of bringing home a character at least 20 or 25 years older than he himself is. The film also gets a boost because Alfredson, Straughan and O'Connor manage to find an emotional center in a couple of moving subplots that branch off of the Smiley chronicle. One involves a young spy who rescues a battered wife from her slime-bucket husband, and inadvertently falls in love with her; the other concerns a homosexual relationship between two of the top British agents. In very different ways, the resolutions of both arcs each touch on the personal fallout and the inhuman cruelty inherent in the politics of personal relationships among Cold War operatives. And yet, paradoxically, herein also lie the film's problems. While the existence of such threads is commendable, they not only take a backseat but occupy far too little screen time, especially the story involving the two men. That one could be a real heartbreaker, and would likely provide a better springboard into an earnest look at the period's ethos than what is onscreen, were it placed closer to center stage. While one can fully understand why the screenwriters didn't do this -- they were obviously most concerned about getting the narrative logistics of the George Smiley story right, and making it comprehensible -- it doesn't change the fact that we feel a bit emotionally short-changed when the closing credits roll. In the final analysis, the movie's failure to explore its two most affecting substories at greater length is what holds it back from its full potential, and makes it merely very good in lieu of superb. And if nothing else, this -- when held up next to the unmitigated success of the Guinness miniseries -- may merely serve as a reflection on the fact that it's impossible to do complete justice to a Le Carré novel within two hours. But even taking its flaws into account, the Alfredson film is still the most successful big-screen transposition of its author since Sidney Lumet's The Deadly Affair (1967). As such, it merits a recommendation.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Focus Features
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Deleted Scenes; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy: First Look; Feature Commentary with Director Tomas Alfredson and Actor Gary Oldman

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gary Oldman George Smiley
Colin Firth Bill Haydon
Tom Hardy Ricki Tarr
Mark Strong Jim Prideaux
Ciarán Hinds Roy Bland
John Hurt Control
Simon McBurney Oliver Lacon
Svetlana Khodchenkova Irina
Benedict Cumberbatch Peter Guillam
Toby Jones Percy Alleline
David Dencik Toby Esterhase
Kathy Burke Connie Sachs
Stephen Graham Jerry Westerby
Zoltán Musci Magyar
Arthur Nightingale Bryant
Amanda Fairbank-Hynes Belinda
Peter McNeil O'Connor Fawn
Roger Lloyd-Pack Mendel
Matyelok Gibbs Mrs. Pope Graham
Philip Hill-Pearson Norman
Jamie Thomas King Kaspar
Stuart Graham Minister
Konstantin Khabenskiy Polyakov
Sarah-Jane Robinson Mary Alleline
Katrina Vasilieva Ann Smiley
Linda Marlowe Mrs. McCraig
William Haddock Bill Roach
Erskine Wylie Spikeley
Philip Martin Brown Tufty Thesinger
Tomasz Kowalski Boris
Alexandra Salafranca Turkish Mistress
Denis Khoroshko Ivan
Oleg Dzhabrailov Sergei
Gillian Steventon Listening Woman
Nick Hopper Janitor Alwyn
Laura Carmichael Sal
Rupert Procter Guillam's Boyfriend
Michael Sarne Voice of Karla
Christian McKay Mackelvore
Jean-Claude Jay French Man at Residency
Tom Stuart Ben
Péter Kálloy Molnár Hungarian Waiter
Ilona Kassai Woman in Window
Imre Csuja KGB Agent

Technical Credits
Tomas Alfredson Director
Nick Angel Musical Direction/Supervision
Tim Bevan Producer
Bridget O'Connor Screenwriter
John LeCarre Executive Producer
Liza Chasin Executive Producer
Olivier Courson Executive Producer
Maria Djurkovic Production Designer
Jacqueline Durran Costumes/Costume Designer
Eric Fellner Producer
Alexandra Ferguson Co-producer
Pilar Foy Art Director
Ron Halpern Executive Producer
Debra Hayward Executive Producer
Mark Holt Special Effects Supervisor
Alberto Iglesias Score Composer
Jina Jay Casting
Dino Jonsater Editor
Peter Morgan Executive Producer
Alexander Oakley Asst. Director
Robyn Slovo Producer
Peter Straughan Screenwriter
Douglas Urbanski Executive Producer
Hoyte van Hoytema Cinematographer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
1. Scene 1 [6:08]
2. Scene 2 [6:43]
3. Scene 3 [6:49]
4. Scene 4 [6:09]
5. Scene 5 [4:18]
6. Scene 6 [6:23]
7. Scene 7 [5:16]
8. Scene 8 [6:56]
9. Scene 9 [5:56]
10. Scene 10 [4:39]
11. Scene 11 [5:58]
12. Scene 12 [1:30]
13. Scene 13 [4:22]
14. Scene 14 [9:06]
15. Scene 15 [5:37]
16. Scene 16 [4:42]
17. Scene 17 [5:43]
18. Scene 18 [8:06]
19. Scene 19 [7:56]
20. Scene 20 [9:08]


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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
The story and characters were interesting. I mean it was okay at times but does have its moments. Also, a lot of familiar faces.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chapter1-Take1 More than 1 year ago
And so it began. And right off the bat, it was different from LeCarre's gentle start with Jim Prideaux arriving at the school in its bucolic setting. Instead we are taken to the Circus right away. If I thought for a moment that the film might be leaving LeCarre's quiet suspense behind in favor of a more modern taste for fast action I was wrong. The film moves slowly but steadily along, with frequent flashbacks from this spy or that to explain what they knew, when they knew it, and who they told, thereby explaining the intricasies of the plot. But do they? Having read the book, I had a pretty good handle on who the fairly large assortment of spys and counterspies were and what they were doing. And yes, in this somewhat tidied up version, a few of those names were lopped off; I wonder how easily the storyline is followed by someone who hasn't (heaven forbid) read the book first? All the key players are that special brand of British actor - every movement solid and believable, no false notes. John Hurt as Control was every bit as wild and paranoid as his literary counterpart. i wonder if he will be considered for a Best Supporting nod. I do think it wouldn't have hurt Gary Oldman to have picked up a pound or two to pad his girth so he could more readily be LeCarre's fat barefoot spy, and I admit to examining the lines on his face from one scene to another to determine their source, makeup or life. Makeup I think. Having said that, I thought he was quite wonderful in his patient, calm, quiet reserve on the exterior, George Smiley. He isn't really called upon to do much more than that though, with a couple of exceptions, one being where he sees his wife in the arms of another man. (Won't say whose arms for those who haven't read it) so I don't think it has the histrionics needed for award season. The director has all but hidden the elusive Ann from our eyes, perhaps so we can create the perfect fantasy woman that Smiley holds her to be? There is a lovely moment when we view George from the back, as he sees Ann, his legs barely buckle at the sight. It's a very subtle and perfect touch. Tom Hardy is sensual and gives us the touch of sex we all secretly crave but he's more than his full, almost pornographic lips. His recounting to Smiley of the Irina adventure is one of the most endearing and emotional scenes in the film. Mark Strong isn't at all what I pictured when I read about Jim Pridoux and they've changed a bit about his role in the plot (in the book it's a little more action-oriented!) and I would have loved some more sweet moments with Bill Roach and the other boys but he won me over; his eyes tell a thousand tales. I really feel the need to imdb him and see everything else he's been in. My husband worked with him on Tristand and Isolde starring James Franco and says he is just a terrific guy, classically trained, brilliant but likeable. Colin Firth, the film's movie star, as Bill Haydon was quite as charming as LeCarre intended but isn't he always? That mix of swagger and vulnerability, the offhand smile; he's quite deadly. I had never heard of the director, Tomas Alfredson, before. He's a Swede who has done mostly nordic television work so I can't quite fathom how he landed such a plum job. He did helm the vampire flick "Let the Right One In" - it may have a cult following I'm not aware of. Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan wrote the screenplay together as they did Sixty Six, again a film I've never heard of