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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Who Amongst Us is a Mole?

Author: Chris_Pandolfi from Los Angeles, CA
8 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is an espionage film that isn't about action and special effects so much as systematic investigation. There's an analytical process at work, a logical deconstruction of the situation at hand. This isn't to suggest that the film is a cold collection of facts and figures; in its narrative methodology, it's a deeply involving mystery, and at times, it's highly thrilling. We want to get to the bottom of things just as badly as the characters do. And unlike a lot of stories of intrigue, which can be too clever and gimmicky for their own good, this one is genuinely unpredictable. There's no telling where it will go, when things will happen, or how it will end up. How nice that there are still mysteries that actively work towards actually surprising the audience.

Adapted from the novel by John le Carré, the film weaves a convoluted yet engrossing tale of intrigue without resorting to romanticized James Bond spy clichés. There are no preposterous gadgets hidden in cufflinks or pens, no fancy sports cars with big engines, no scantily clad women. The agents aren't suave, svelte men in tuxedos with the phony fighting skills of a martial arts stunt coordinator; they work in offices and filing rooms, they have varying builds, they dress in average work clothing, and some of them look as if their years of service have prematurely aged them. This isn't the glamorized world of secret agents, but a daily grind. There are no super villains in hidden underground fortresses. There are only men with guns. And as the story demonstrates, having a gun doesn't necessarily make you the most dangerous person around.

Set during the early 1970s at the height of the Cold War, the film takes place mostly in England and centers on the hunt for a Soviet double agent who has infiltrated the top levels of the British secret service. It cuts back and forth through time, giving us pieces of the puzzle in teasing increments. It begins when the head of British Intelligence, nicknamed Control (John Hurt), sends an agent named Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) to Hungary on a mission, only for it to go horribly wrong; Soviet Intelligence got involved, resulting in someone getting shot. The uproar over the incident reaches all the way back to British Intelligence, codenamed The Circus, forcing Control and his right-hand man, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) into retirement. The new chief, Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), is surrounded by agents who have established themselves by obtaining what seems to be high-grade material from Soviet Intelligence.

Smiley is brought back out of retirement when an agent named Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) comes forward claiming that there is mole on the senior staff of British Intelligence, and that there has been for many years. He could only go to Smiley with this information; he has been on the run following a mission to Istanbul, during which he was told about the mole, and the subsequent accusations of defection. As Smiley begins the process of interviewing former Circus operatives and obtaining sensitive yet pertinent information, it becomes increasingly evident that Tarr is telling the truth. Exactly who is the mole? Scenes of the senior staff staring at each other warily effectively add tension. Pay close attention to Alleline's deputy, Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), and close allies Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds).

The discovery of a surprise survivor leads to the revelation of suspect codenames Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, and Poorman (not Spy, as the title indicates), all conceived of by Control. I leave it to you to discover who among The Circus the codenames apply to. There is a final confrontation which is highly enjoyable, and yet it's not because of conventional tactics like a shootout, a daredevil escape, or an explosion; it's simply because the mystery has been solved. Action sequences can be a great deal of fun, and Lord knows I've recommended plenty of movies on those terms. That being said, there's a tremendous satisfaction that comes with nothing more or less than seeing the pieces finally falling into place. We've worked through the evidence and made the connections, and now we have the payoff.

Gary Oldman is sure to be noticed for his performance in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." As Smiley, he's not a super spy stereotype, but a dedicated man doing his job. I'm hard pressed to say that he loves what he does; he spends much of the film looking tired, and indeed, it's hard to imagine how a lifetime of covert missions and intense investigative work can be easy on the body. Despite his declining physical status (watch him as he gets up out of a chair), his mind remains razor sharp. He trusts his instincts. He knows who to talk to and where to get information. He keeps calm in every situation. He can get to the bottom of things, and he doesn't even need bullets. He actually thinks before he acts. How refreshing to see a secret agent that gets by on brains instead of brawn.

-- Chris Pandolfi (

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

I Want To Talk About Loyalty

Author: ShootingShark from Dundee, Scotland
6 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Someone at the top of the British Secret Service is a mole, passing information to the Kremlin. George Smiley is tasked by the Foreign Office with unmasking them.

For my money, there are two great (and very contrasting) spies in British literature - Ian Fleming's James Bond and John Le Carré's George Smiley, who is the antithesis of Bond; quiet, unassuming, brilliant, a player of pawns on the international stage. Oldman is just terrific here, one of those mesmerising performances where everything the character feels is in his eyes - he never even has to raise his voice. The support cast is good, with Strong and Cumberbatch both intriguing as Prideaux the captured agent, and Guillam, the young protégé, respectively. The movie is set in 1973 and the attention to detail is excellent with all the right cars and clothes, but more importantly the style - Alfredson's film could just as easily have been made in 1973 and will be just as taut and edgy forty years from now. This is a movie about paranoia and political manoeuvring in a male-dominated world and Smiley is the puppet-master who refuses to lose his cool no matter what the situation, as in the scene where he matter-of-factly accuses the minister of being indirectly responsible for the security leaks or the moment at the Christmas party where he discovers his wife is having an affair. This is a man who doesn't even take his glasses off whilst swimming. There are dozens of brilliant little touches, like the fly in the car scene or the moment of epiphany just as the train points click home, which add enormously to a rich and thought-provoking film. There is also a memorably understated piano score by Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias which drifts around the scenes with quiet intensity. Smiley's history is a little complex; he's a minor character in Le Carré's early books Call For The Dead and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold then the main protagonist in this, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People, but also appears on the periphery in a few other works. This book was filmed previously as an excellent 1979 BBC TV serial with Alec Guinness as Smiley, which is well worth catching if you can. This movie version however is a great old-fashioned thriller and a smashing adaptation of a tremendous spy novel.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Not as good as I had hoped.

Author: rohansrider from Rushden
5 October 2011

Interesting views here; terribly polarized. Appears to be a love it or hate it movie and as for me I think I know why its detractors were so disappointed. Given the wonderful ensemble cast I think they expected a stronger plot line and narrative building up to the revelation of the "mole". This did not happen and because the film was too short the final few minutes with the "mole " revealed were a let-down. I usually love a good thriller/whodunnit but this did not measure up. I challenge anyone to declare that they knew who was the mole by evidence shown. I don't think Smiley was really sure an in any case there were no definitive reasons given for why the "mole" was a double-agent. I found Smiley rather tedious and I did have the odd yawn. The flash back technique was at times confusing, and the film feels to be rather pretentious,almost implying that it's very cerebral and if you don't like it then you must be a moron. I am not a moron; I was not expecting an action packed film by any means but this was too slow. The lack of character development was also a mistake. It falls into the category to watch again on DVD and maybe I will appreciate the nuances and tiny clues. As someone already said not suited for the big screen. For me Tom Hardy stood out with Cumberbatch also very competent. Hurt was playing himself as usual, the rest were not that noteworthy except for Kathy Burke's small role which was excellent. It did capture the mood and drabness of the seventies very well and the cinematography was faultless; look out for an Oscar or BAFTA in that category.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

"Nothing is genuine anymore."

Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
18 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Without question, this is a film I'll have to watch another half dozen times or so to really know what's going on; the first two times just wasn't enough. And yet the story develops so methodically that it's impossible to divert one's attention because you know you'll miss something. Some will complain about the pacing and the non-linear story telling style but I found those elements drawing me in and forcing me to pay attention. Yet there's still that gnawing feeling that the film fell a clue or two short of allowing the viewer to figure out who the mole was sending information back to the Russians. In updated Charlie Chan fashion, Smiley (Gary Oldman) puts it all together but I really wanted to figure it out for myself, and so far I haven't been able to do it after a couple of tries. This is a quality film with excellent portrayals by a talented cast, so I'll be back again at some point. The haunting foreign rendition of "Beyond the Sea" at the finale was the icing on the cake for me.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A really great film !John Le Carré!

Author: Giorgos Papoutsis (pap0279) from Xylokastro, Greece
23 September 2012

John Le Carré is best known for his novel "the spy who came in from the cold",a 60s "spy" novel and also a noir film.The next good film from another novel of his was "tinker tailor soldier spy",a 70s film.I was curious to see the remake and it didn't disappoint me at all.A very,good,solid,complex film. The plot is really good.Mystery,patriotism,traitors and saviors.Gunfights?Not really.This is not an action film.You must stay focus or else you will miss the point.Is very important to stay focus from the first minute and don't let anything disturb you.Romance?Not really.The women in this film is not as it is in James Bond films.The director did his job well.The cast is really good and remember:This is not a Hollywood film!This is a mystery film!High quality!Highly recommended!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

No doubt very interesting... but hardly watchable for even an advanced film audience.

Author: RagingR2 from Netherlands
15 April 2012

I consider myself to be well above average intelligence and well above average film viewing experience, but I seriously struggled to understand more than just the basic plot (well I got that after reading the plot outline beforehand). If you would have asked me directly after the film "Give me a summary of what happened there, and who was who and who did what.", I really would have struggled to come up with a sensible answer.

In the end it reminds me a lot of films directed by George Clooney like Syriana. New characters, semi-connected events, snippets from conservations, new locations and different points in time come racing by so fast that it makes your head spin. In hindsight the details of the plot and how everything is connected become (a bit) clearer, and some things made me go "oh of course, that was connected to this or that". But because of the rate in which these elements pass by and the seemingly haphazard and minimalistic way in which supposedly logical steps in the plot are portrayed, I really couldn't keep up with it while watching the film.

And much like the film Syriana, this film gives you the feeling that the sense of chaos caused by how intricately complicated things tend to be in a geopolitical/economical setting (Syriana) or an espionage/intelligence setting (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy), seems to be exactly the effect that the film is deliberately trying to achieve in it's viewing experience. Well if their intention was to convey a sense of chaos, congratulations, they succeeded masterfully at that. But that really isn't my definition of a film as a worthwhile viewing experience.

Don't get me wrong, the cast was really impressive, the music and the locations were beautiful and the acting excellent. And I'm really not suggesting that every film has to come in bite-size chunks. But if an intelligent person with an advanced film viewing experience (and I wasn't the only one) is struggling to keep up with the plot, there is definitely something wrong with the film as a 'film', i.e. as an overall viewing experience.

Thoughts that come to my mind are:

- Wouldn't it have been possible to convey the message or thought that they were trying to convey, with a film with half the number of characters (maximum) that were in this film now?

- Could we introduce some sort of warning label for films that have as one of their main goals to convey a sense of the chaos and intricateness of the events and relations that form its setting, so next time I will be able to avoid them?

- Or should writers who don't know how to select, compact, trim and condense so to speak, maybe be prevented from trying to make a book into a film?

By the way, one might reason that the film might be a easier to follow after one has read the book (which admittedly I didn't), but I have heard from several people that the book is at least as difficult to understand as the film, and what's more, doesn't guarantee at all that the film will be easier to understand then.

Well shoot me for trampling on the impressive achievement that a lot of people seem to think this film is. But as I said, I judge a film by the end results; a film is a viewing experience, intended for viewers; to be viewed, and I suppose also understood by them to a certain point, although apparently I might be mistaken on that last bit. Anyway that's just my opinion, and in the light of the above I really can't give this film more than a 4 out of 10.

If this review makes the blood boil (or worse) of people who loved this film than so be it, but I hope my review will at least serve to warn some other like-minded film viewers before going to see this, just so you know what to expect...

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Behind Glasses

Author: kosmasp
23 March 2012

I haven't seen the original mini-TV-series from the UK, so I can't judge the movie on behalf of that nor compare it to it. What I can say, is that this movie has superior acting in it, a story that does condone repeated viewing and just enough "action" to make it work. Why do I say the latter? Because there are a lot of people who'll dismiss this as talking heads movie. And this perception is not really wrong, because if you really want to see action and stunts and all that, than you shouldn't watch this movie.

On the other hand, the talking heads do an amazing job and every nuance in their performance is just great. While you might find yourself struggling to follow the story, it all will be revealed by the end. One of my favorites of 2011, this movie has a lot going for it, tension being one of those things. Great directing job, something you could expect

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A refreshing change

Author: barry-854-332192 from Australia
21 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I enjoyed this movie very much. Neither of us had prior knowledge of the book or TV series, however that didn't get in the way of a riveting story.

I was mesmerized as we were taken on a journey into the world of espionage, a real cloak and dagger affair. The combination of slower pace and a wonderful 'look' set the emotion.

The cast was very strong and especially Gary Oldman was brilliant. Would have liked to have seen more of Hurt.

This movie is not for the action / shootem'up / fire a nail into my head accidentally crowed.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Awesome but you need to concentrate

Author: roguegrafix from Thailand
19 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have seen this movie twice now. The first time I was a tad disappointed but the second time it is an awesome movie.

The first time I thought that if you hadn't read the book you would not know what was going on. But the second time, I picked up all the clues I "skipped over" in the first viewing.

This film requires serious concentration. If you're snacking on pretzels you'll miss key elements. If you have read the book, you'll be ahead but if you pay careful attention then the film-makers have done an incredible job of condensing a 450 page book into 2 hours. The asides, the background chatter give you the clues to what is going on. If you are a lazy listener, you'll miss all of them.

Yes, the minor characters are pretty 1-dimensional and almost bit actors but all the actors even those playing minor parts are at the top of their game. If you know Le Carre', you know it's all about character and they concentrate mainly on Smiley. And his actions are SO perfect—when he winds down the window to let out the fly, or when he chews on mints while waiting for the mole, it's really telling. The suspense is all so palpable.

Peter Guillam, played by Benedict Cumberbatch is superb—just as I imagined him 28 years ago when I read the book! They nailed his character for sure.

The film is the most non-action action movie. It's all to do with Smiley and the bas%$#@#s he works for. As one reviewer in Australia put it (paraphrased):"the best recommendation about this film is that Americans just don't get it." Need I say more.

A thinking man's spy movie. Watch it when you're in a serious mood.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

glimpse of the old times, spies are ordinary people who do unordinary work

Author: bertieliu52 from somewhere on earth
18 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's a sort of endeavor to write a film review for Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy after its premiere month ago. The espionage masterpiece of John le Carré has already got enough comments and analysis, so when it was brought to the wide screen in 2011, I guess most people might be thinking, this film is good.

Of course, you cannot imagine a film "not good" with Gary Oldman (see Prada show this year?), John Hurt, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy... And this film is absolutely loyal to the novel, which perhaps is partly because le Carré himself is one of the adapters. We could see a real Circus in the 1960s - 1970s (The Honourable Schoolboy took place in 1976), with a gloomy London sky high above. All the buildings, streets, cars, pedestrians and rains seems clear and gray, and among them, is a group of tired spies.

"Tired" is the word I'd like use to describe the characters. Those who had been struggled through WWII and lived to the Cold War were easy find themselves confused and tired in the post-war circumstance- it seemed that an old enemy had been beaten nevertheless a new one was created from an old ally. Toby Esterharse and Percy Alleinne were nothing like what the "old", "decent" espionage. They were more like political clowns performing before the politicians. Meanwhile those who'd joined the Circus before or during the war, seemed to arrive at the crossroad of their life- either to drop out or to work for the superior they were not very approved of.

I am not to discuss the matter of belief and loyalty in that period of history as absurd as singing Soviet Union national anthem in the Christmas party of Circus here, just try to recall the life of spies of an ordinary human being. They were just normal people, despite their brain and profession, nothing more than an elder man abandoned by his wife who had affair with his colleague or a middle-aged public servant who had to be separated from his gay lover, or a young man who met his passion of love and began to dream about family on a business trip to Istanbul. When we look deeper, to reveal the truth beneath loyalty and betray, we might be able to see a group of ordinary people feeling confused about their life and what had long been making up the most part of it.

When the talented Connie Sachs sat next by George Smiley on a typical Oxford afternoon showing the latter photos from the past, she said what good old times, with a younger Control in uniform fighting for his country and what he believed in, and Jim Prideaux and Bill Haydon together for their friendship, who would had foreseen the lonely death of an old man and betray between two very good friends?

With the melody of La Mer, we could see Smiley sitting on Control's seat, Ann coming home again, Guillam passing by Smiley in the Circus, and Haydon shot by Prideaux then a tear of blood dropping from his face. Seems another period of good time had began, if we don' t consider what was going to happen.

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