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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
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Reviews & Ratings for
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy More at IMDbPro »

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A clever whodunnit featuring the cream of the British acting crop

Author: Philip Frazer (hbk_nwo33) from United Kingdom
25 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The acting and cinematography really shine in what is a smart espionage film that highlights just how lonely and paranoid of a job a spy really is, very little of your Bond-esque glamour to this lifestyle. The story is filled with twists and turns, as well as frequent shifts in time help to keep you guessing until the very end.


For a film that is a who's who of British actors, you would go into this expecting top notch acting performances if nothing else. And the film doesn't disappoint, in particular Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch but that is not to slight the work of the likes of Colin Firth, John Hurt, Toby Jones and Mark Strong who all put in solid performances here. The best part of the performances is that every actor keeps it subdued, as this film is all about being grounded and the actors follow suit, all allowing each other to remain on a level playing field. For a true sign of the restraint shown here, Gary Oldman's protagonist has no dialogue until over 15 minutes into the film and when he does speak he remains cool, calm and collected at almost all points.

Due to the very nature of the plot, constant attention is a necessity. Miss something and you might not even know whether you are in the present or the past, and will almost certainly find yourself lost with the story, at least temporarily. This is mostly down to how underplayed everything is. You won't be seeing explosions here, no car chases either. What you will instead find is a lot sitting and deliberating, plotting and spying.

A great example of how understated and lonely the film and its characters are comes from the moment that Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) is told by Smiley that everything he does from that point on will be watched, then tells him to tie up any loose ends. The next scene sees Guillam arrive home to his boyfriend/partner and simply stand, looking despondent whilst he is talked at. We then see his partner packing his bag and leaving, asking for an explanation whilst Guillam just sits, trying to hold back his tears until he breaks down as soon as the door closes. No need to make a big deal about the homophobia within the service, no need to make a big deal out of Guillam's sexuality, just a mostly silent scene that sums it all up without the need to dumb it down or insult the audience's intelligence. This revelation, even despite the film making no big deal of it, explains why despite Guillam's reputation as a resident skirt chaser in the office is never seen doing it, and why he gently dismisses the lady at the bag check-in who is clearly into him.

The mystery of who the mole is within "The Circus" is one that you will likely not guess, at least not with any certainty. Even as you approach the reveal, and indeed at the moment of it, you still find yourself paranoid and questioning whether or not it is truly him or if another twist is inbound.

The cinematography is also stand-out, with unique angling and extreme close-ups increasing the feeling of unease and paranoia.

Tinker Tailor is a unique film, in that it is, ironically, one that trusts; both the viewer's ability to focus at all times to follow the story, and its actors to play their roles without getting carried away. But with acting talent like the ones seen here, how could you not trust?

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

In a 1970s cold war spy story, very nicely done but very difficult to follow.

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
14 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I saw this on DVD. We enjoyed it, the whole movie is interesting and filled with established actors in most roles. But when it was over we wondered if we were the only two who had a hard time following everything.

So I first went to old reliable (for me), the critic Ebert. He wrote almost exactly what we had been thinking, he couldn't follow it either, even though he has made a career of following sometimes complex movies and making sense of them.

So next I read a number of user reviews here, as well as many of the discussion items, and guess what? The most common theme is how difficult it is to follow all the characters and to understand what was going on. So I give this movie a favorable rating, I enjoyed it very much, but frankly it is very hard to follow. And when it was all over, I knew who the spy was, but I can't really say what all I saw in the movie.

Gary Oldman plays what turns out to be the central character, George Smiley . There had been an incident, Smiley was fired from the British secret agency, but now the old chairman of the group has approached him. They strongly suspect that there is a mole, a traitor in the organization and that it is one of the top five members. Smiley is asked to come back to investigate and figure it all out. Which he eventually does.

The movie's title comes from a code system used during the investigation and required communications. Each man being investigated was given a code name ... Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, etc ... and one of them would turn out to be the spy! Some action, but mostly quiet and often incomplete conversations which ended in vague, indirect references or implications. Enjoyable movie but very hard to follow. Maybe I already said that?

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely Hated It

Author: DeeJay Gee from United States
30 March 2012

Too bad to review........Oh jeez, I must have a minimum of 10 lines of text to review. Why? If it's bad, it's bad. Hated the filming - too dark and too much of the movie played on before you could determine the character. Too confusing. Never had a clue what was going on. Never knew what country the characters were in. This is definitely one of those movies where you must read the book first. The acting was so poor. I expected so much more from the fine cast. The only character half-way interesting was Benedict Cumberbatch. Do I have 10 lines yet? Must not. Let's see........ gosh I just can't think of anything to say. We fell asleep twice during the film. I'm not trying to be negative, just really, really did not like the movie. Maybe I will save someone else the rental fee.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Not all movie spies are like James Bond

Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
21 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When Jim Prideaux is sent to Budapest to arrange the defection of a senior Hungarian officer things do not go according to plan; he is shot and we presume killed. One of the reasons Control, the head of MI-6 was so keen to get his hands on the officer was that he had come to believe that their was a mole high up in the service and this man could identify him. With the operation failing Control is soon replaced along with those closest to him. One of those let go is George Smiley; he is recruited to find out who the mole is without those still in the service knowing. As the case progresses we will learn more about what happened to Prideaux after he was shot; the details of 'Operation Witchcraft', which concerned an apparent Soviet agent who was passing valuable information to the west and ultimately the identification of the mole.

Having seen the television adaptation of the story starring Alec Guinness I was curious to see how this would compare. Now I have seen both I'd probably rate the series higher but that might just be because I saw it first; inevitable a fair amount has been removed in this version but the key parts remain. The acting was top notch; Gary Oldman made a fine Smiley and the rest of the main cast was made up of fairly well known actors all of whom did well. People who don't know anything about the story before watching may be a little disappointed if they are expecting James Bond style action; there is none of that here; these spies aren't glamorous action men they are ordinary people; the sort you'd barely notice in a crowd; in other words far closer to what I imagine real people working at MI-6 are like. That isn't to say there is no action at all; there are a few shootings; one of which is particularly shocking. Over all this was a quality film which I'd certainly recommend.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful film but impossible to follow the story unless you've read the book

Author: larry-jay
12 February 2012

Extremely beautiful film. However, for us who have not read John Le Carré's book, the film is quite incomprehensible. The director has completely missed out that a story has to be told, in order to give cinema visitors more than just beautiful photo and splendid acting. I left the theater like a major wandering question mark, determined to read the book to eventually give the film a second chance.

Seriously speaking, the film was painfully boring and nothing much happens. Every now and then it felt pointless. I did find myself looking at my watch, wondering "When does it end?". The actors, nothing wrong, but wasting their talent on this film was really a waste of money and time. And speaking of time - remember that if you see the movie, you'll never get that time back. I already miss the two hours I spent on this overrated production.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Should Have Been Better

Author: killpandakill from Canada
1 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was looking forward to seeing this film. I heard great reviews and it was based on a John Le Carre novel (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Constant Gardener), so I thought it would be a great spy tale from the times of the cold war. I was half right. It is a spy tale from the times of the cold war but it is so boring and jumbled that I was having a hard time following the story.

In a nutshell, John Hurt is Control, head of the British Intelligence in the 1970's, and he resigns after an operation in Budapest goes wrong. He believes one of his four senior officers is a mole working for the Russians. Gary Oldman's character is Smiley, one of those senior officers and is forced out with the resignation of Control. Smiley is then asked by a top ranking government official to investigate a story told to him by a rogue agent, Ricky Tarr, that supported Control's (Hurt) suspicion of a mole in their midst. With the efforts of Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), Smiley finds information that leads him to Jim Prideaux, who was the agent at the heart of Budapest operation. This allows Smiley to put the pieces together and discover who the mole is.

The beginning is painfully dull and once the story begins, the flashback scenes are so poorly placed and confusing. It's hard enough to follow an intriguing spy film and when you have so many flashbacks shoehorned into the film, it's just awful.

Also there are stories that never get developed or even resolved at the end. * SPOILER* * SPOILER** SPOILER* For instance, what was up with the relationship between the boy and Prideaux? Where was that going and was it really necessary? Was Ricky Tarr ever going to find out about his lover? Did Smiley ever confront his adulteress wife? And what was up with Ciaran Hinds' character, the Soldier? Did he even have a line? That is waste of good talent. I understand you can't fit everything in, but it's nice if it makes sense.

The ending also seemed tacked on, there was no confrontation between the characters and it didn't tie everything together. I also thought there should have been a lot less people surviving at the end.

I feel bad for the cast, who gave outstanding performances in the film, but this mish mash of time jumping, poor pacing and bad editing really doesn't do them justice. I'm afraid all this movie does is make me wish I had read the book.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Not as good as the mini-series

Author: The_Deputy from USA
17 January 2012

I realize a two hour movie has to cut things out that a mini-series running five hours can leave in. However, it seems the heart of the mini-series was cut out. In the end, this is a suspense story - who was the spy (or spies)? In the mini-series, we are early on introduced to Alleline, Haydon, Bland and Esterhase, particularly in flashbacks when Smiley approaches them individually, at Control's request. We can also see motives for spying - Esterhase is a foreigner, and unmotivated by British patriotism, Haydon is a fop, Bland is working class with a left-wing background, Alleline has characteristics which would bring to mind Kim Philby. This is gone in the movie, we're barely introduced to the suspected spies, and have no ideas what the motives are.

Then at the end of the movie, when it is revealed, we still don't really get an idea what the motivation for spying was, like we get in the mini-series. The entire Cold War context of this is drained. There was a real Cambridge Five in England, five men from the best families who went to the best schools, yet chose loyalty to the Comintern and the USSR over England. Fiction pieces like this are partially an exploration on what the motivations of such men would be, yet this is completely missing in the film. Absent the suspense, and the character motivations, the movie is rather empty. If they had switched around who the spy was in the movie, would it have made any difference? The answer is no, and that's the failing of this movie, ultimately there's about as much suspense as what card might get picked out of a deck - the answer is drained of all meaning.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Complete travesty of a movie

Author: Sverre Kongleskogheim from Norway
3 January 2014

The only people that will applaud this movie is: movie critics of the all too common variety that thinks that the more boring, meaningless and artyfarty a movie is, the better it is, and fans of the book and/or original screening. Anyone else that does, should seek professional help. Because this is a movie that goes on and on without anything interesting or exiting ever happening. To call this a thriller, is like calling watching a tortoise move having a front row seat to a fast-paced race to the death. Only in the last scene something exiting nearly happens, but the director elects not to show it to us. He must have thought that after over two hours of interminable boredom, the shock of something actually happening would be too much for some and might cause heart attacks. Sometimes the editors make halfhearted attempts to liven things up - by resorting to completely unannounced and utterly confusing jumps in time and space. Gary Oldmans excellent acting skills goes completely to waste, and could easily be replaced by Sylvester Stallone and his infamous lack of emotions. This movie is SO bad, that I initially believed it to be made by Norwegian State TV (NRK).

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Wooden Acting, Glacial Pace

Author: a-coogan from United States
9 January 2014

Gary Olman was atrocious as Smiley. In particular his face was permanently devoid of expression. He was like a ventriloquist's dummy, except he lacked a dummy's range of emotions.

The only interesting scenes involved the bitchy top spies upstairs, too intent on stabbing each other in the back to mind the shop.

And nothing happened. Looong periods where there's so little action that the lights would have gone out had the switch been tied to a motion detector.

The storytelling was hopelessly opaque.

The miniseries was infinitely better.

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9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Two-Hour Rick Roll

Author: Samdalsh from United States
4 March 2012

Have you ever been "Rick-Rolled"? This movie is its cinematic equivalent.

Of course, if you watch the entire movie but don't want to admit you got Rick-Rolled, then, well, okay.

Given that I must write ten lines to satisfy IMDb review requirements, I will state emphatically that if given chance to not watch this movie knowing better what it's about, I would not spend the time to do so.

That said, here is a summary of the movie in the form of a Haiku:

Whodunit Smiley? / Irrelevant Scenes Abound / By end, we don't care.

But hey, if you're into left-field character introductions and driving nails into your temples, knock yourself out.

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