Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Drama, Thriller
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In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Series cast summary:
 George Smiley (7 episodes, 1979)
 Peter Guillam (7 episodes, 1979)
Anthony Bate ...
 Sir Oliver Lacon / ... (7 episodes, 1979)
George Sewell ...
 Mendel (7 episodes, 1979)
Bernard Hepton ...
 Toby Esterhase (5 episodes, 1979)
 Bill Haydon (5 episodes, 1979)
Hywel Bennett ...
 Ricki Tarr (5 episodes, 1979)
Terence Rigby ...
 Roy Bland (4 episodes, 1979)
 Jim Prideaux (4 episodes, 1979)
Michael Aldridge ...
 Percy Alleline (4 episodes, 1979)
Alec Sabin ...
 Fawn (4 episodes, 1979)
 Control (3 episodes, 1979)
Duncan Jones ...
 Roach (3 episodes, 1979)
Daniel Beecher ...
 Spikely (3 episodes, 1979)
John Wells ...
 Headmaster (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Compton ...
 Bryant (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Moorey ...
 Lauda Strickland (2 episodes, 1979)


George Smiley has been retired for about a year when he finds a friend from the Circus, his old outfit in British Intelligence, sitting in his living room. He is taken to the home of an advisor to the Prime Minister on intelligence matters, where he finds evidence that one of the men in the senior ranks of his old agency is a Russian spy. Smiley is asked to find him, without official access to any of the files in the Circus or letting on that anyone is under suspicion. With only a few old friends, his own powers of deduction, and secrecy as weapons, Smiley must unearth the spy who turned him out of the Circus. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Thriller

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

29 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Az áruló  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (7 parts)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Sir Alec Guinness was the third actor to play John le Carré's famous character George Smiley in film and television. Guinness played him twice, in this mini-series and in its sequel, Smiley's People (1982). Rupert Davies was the first actor to play Smiley in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) whilst James Mason was the second in The Deadly Affair (1966) though the Smiley character here was renamed Charles Dobbs. Denholm Elliott was the fourth actor to play Smiley in A Murder of Quality (1991) whilst Gary Oldman is the fifth actor to play him in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011). See more »


In episode 5, Fawn's hair is shaggy and hangs over his ears. A day later (in episode 6) it is short and trim. He's been guarding the kidnapped Toby Esterhase for the intervening period, so he could hardly have run out and got it cut. See more »


George Smiley: What are you going to do about it?
Control: Depends on "it". I'll wait for "it" to show itself.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the closing credits, the church prayer "Nunc dimittis" is played. This prayer describes Simeon's wish to depart this world after having witnessed the newborn Messiah. In context, this theme is used to bid farewell to the viewer. See more »


Featured in Al Murray's Great British Spy Movies (2014) See more »


Nunc Dimittis
Composed by Geoffrey Burgon
Sung by Paul Phoenix and the Boys of the St Paul's Cathedral Choir
See more »

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User Reviews

12 April 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There are few movies that follow the book. There is no end to the comment, "The book was so much better." There is good reason for that with some films. "The Lord of the Rings" would have been five movies if you went "by the book". Interesting and enjoyable as that might be for Tolkien fans, it was impossible for film makers. Yet, "Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy" as a movie defies that axiom.

Having read the book and seen the movie more than "several times", they still remain interconnected and indistinguishable. Yes, the book contains more detail, but may details are covered by innuendo, scene or background detail in the movie. Alec Guinness becomes Smiley so completely that his acting gives real meaning to the idea of a "character actor", even down to wiping his glasses with his tie. (you have to read the book for that one.)That is not to say, that Guinness is a robot and the movie is stiff in the name of faithfulness to the book, just the opposite.

The movie dawns the viewer in, just as the book draws in the reader, as part of the process of discovery; unraveling the mystery. As in a true "who done it" (or as one commentator put "who is it"), the viewer has no more foreknowledge than Smiley. You are introduced to all the characters, all have reasons to be the defector, all have reasons to distrust an investigation to the past, yet only one is ferreted-out.

The ending is consistent with the logic of the book and film, but, you still don't expect it. It's anti-climactic yet believable. The film, like to book, leaves one wondering how this could happen. It's thought provoking given many of the suspects comments thought-out the book/film. Both inspire thought more than resolution. The story challenges the reader/viewer to think and think well about the reasons for and purpose of spying as a whole. (The film is more English in cultural orientation, but the concept is universal, as many Americans have learned as well.)

A wonderful book transformed into visual. Great acting through-out, and you really hate all the right people....

34 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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