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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Masterpiece

10/10
Author: Grega Bremec from Slovenia
8 November 2015

I have watched this movie 5 times, and I would love to do it 5 more times again; it will actually be my preference over anything I might have available to sit down to and don't quite feel like risking, any time I feel like doing it again.

It has that perfect mixture of a good old European crime movie flow, underpinned with some of the best contemporary music ever adapted for the screen. And then it adds some of its own mystery on top of that.

The cast is mesmerising, the plot just about difficult enough to figure out on the first watch, so the remaining four runs for me were simply pure indulgence in being able to watch a masterpiece again from four different perspectives and not be bored a minute each and every time.

In fact, I enjoyed it more and more, every single time I've seen it.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A British film aficionado's ultimate orgasm

9/10
Author: The Film Lawyers
27 October 2015

Gary Oldman. Tom Hardy. Benedict Cumberbatch. Colin Firth. John Hurt. Ciaran Hinds. To say that the cast of the film adaptation of John Le Carre's famed spy series is at an A-list level is an understatement; this film stars a "who's who" of British cinema. In keeping in line with the Cold War theme established in our recent Bridge of Spies review, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy replaces the Americans with MI6 (British Intelligence) against the Soviets, in a very thrilling cat-and-mouse game intent on unmasking the traitor embedded within the Circus (MI6's upper echelon).

To start off, all those worried about the large ensemble cast potentially being too egotistical to coexist in minor roles within this the film can rid themselves of any worry, as the cast meshes perfectly and sees every actor deliver a stellar performance, regardless of screen time. Another thing to keep in mind is that this film is not targeted towards those that have an inclination for action-heavy spy films ala the Bond film series, but rather those that are willing to think and appreciate the subtle nuances that the film painstakingly recreates from its source material.

It seems hard to believe that it was over twenty years ago that Gary Oldman was playing insanely over the top – and still memorable- villain Stansfield in Leon The Professional. In Tinker, Oldman heads the cast in the role of George Smiley, recruited by Control (played masterfully in a short role by John Hurt) to sniff out the spy at Circus, with the suspects being assigned codenames that are illustrated in the film's title. Smiley has two weaknesses that are established early on, his cheating wife and a Soviet equivalent named Karla. It speaks volumes about the quality of the script and the direction that not once are either of the two parties shown yet they both play an integral role in establishing Smiley's character and aiding in arriving at his decision determining who the mole is. Within the cast that we mentioned was as deep in high-end talent as any in recent memory, Oldman stands out for portraying his veteran character as someone that would normally be as nondescript as can be if not for Oldman mastering how to portray a brilliant mind and checkered past that helped earn his Smiley character his position within MI6's Circus.

Accompanying Oldman are the actors mentioned above and it truly is a veritable dream team of the top British actors alive today. Cumberbatch and Hardy play roles one would not expect them in with their massive popularity nowadays, but it speaks to their quality as actors that they excel in their roles (Hardy was a delight as the disheveled Ricky Tarr). Mark Strong is amongst the least heralded of the cast yet delivers an equally poignant performance in his role as a teacher whose role in the introduction sets the stage for the rest of the film. There is no disappointment amongst the cast's performances, further helping the film stake its claim as one of the best of 2011.

The film was directed by Tomas Alfredson, he of Let the Right One In fame, which established his credentials as an auteur capable of establishing the right blend of melancholia and tension amongst Tinker's less than happy group of spies. Alfredson's direction was just the right amount of subtle, capturing the smallest of facial expressions and presenting them in ways that make the viewer actively wonder who the mole could be. Although the revelation of the mole was a tad anti-climactic and should have been guessed by the more attentive viewers a few scenes prior, the setup leading up to said reveal was executed as well as can be, with Alfredson's presentation keeping the viewer in a state of suspense and tension throughout. Very rarely can one say that a film is just the right length as an adaption from a book –Peter Jackson's ludicrously bloated Hobbit trilogy, anyone? - but Alfredson manages to capture the essence of the TV series and book in the run time of 127 minutes. Here's hoping he gets another crack at adapting source material as well written and established as Le Carrie's spy series, his work on Tinker solidifying him as one of the better directors in cinema.

The cinematography and sound that accompanies Alfredson's direction was nothing short of brilliant itself, with the sound editing standing out for its innovative use of conversation filters. To put it another way, the sound editing helps the audience listen to conversations within Smiley's head and filters it just right that it presents the key phrase which helps him solve the mystery as if it was homing in on it. A tad difficult to describe in text form but it is something that needs to be experienced in order to be appreciated for its innovativeness. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytemma's use of stylistic nuances further elevates the quality of scenes, as lingering shots that focus in on random or insignificant objects still evoke a sense of intrigue for the audience. The visual pleasure that Hoytemma's shots is something which must be experienced along with the aforementioned sound editing, with something as insignificant as a close-up of Oldman's character's furrowed brows on his face, draped in shadow, still somehow serving to showcase to the audience what his character stands for. Speaks to the quality of the cinematography that scenes such as this can be paired with the highly-tense opening scene that was focused on quick cuts and yet still flow well together.

For those that appreciate old school espionage tales or just wish to see all of Britain's finest actors in one film together, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a must see. Nowhere else will you get to see Sherlock Holmes in a film with Mad Max and King George while Commissioner Gordon is omnipresent.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Good Cold War espionage thriller

7/10
Author: grantss from Sydney, Australia
27 February 2015

Good Cold War espionage thriller.

Not great though - moves very slowly, and seems unnecessarily complex. While I am not in favour of spoon-feeding an audience information - surely you can join the dots without the director holding your hand - here some more details in certain areas would have helped.

Cast is a who's-who of British cinema: John Hurt, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy. Fine, understated performance by Gary Oldman. Not sure if it is Oscar-worthy, though might be a good reward for numerous superb performances in the past which have gone unnominated.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Good attempt, but the mini-series is better

7/10
Author: siderite from Romania
9 August 2013

I have delayed seeing this movie until I had the time and disposition to watch the BBC mini series from 1979. Having seen both, I can now compare them. The series was a lot better. It showed the connections between the characters, the things that made the betrayals, the infighting and the revenges so important and so personal. The film doesn't quite make it so.

And look at the great cast. I do feel it was underused. Ciarán Hinds and even Colin Firth shown only in a few scenes, John Hurt has a similar fate. Then there is the story. It follows pretty much the one in the series, but with a lot of the details removed. I agree it is the only way to cram more than five hours into a two hour film, but the choice of the things they left out bothered me.

Bottom line: even having seen the miniseries, I couldn't grasp some of the details from the movie. The cerebral way in which the series was made turned into a glacial and impersonal view of the story in the film. I can't imagine I would have understood the feelings of any of the characters just by watching the movie. Also many of the important bits in the series were completely skipped here, like the power struggle in the Circus or the personal connection between Jim Prideaux and Bill Haydon or even the continued humiliation of George Smiley on account of his wife's indiscretions. Even if lower budget and a lot slower paced, I would still recommend the series.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Performances worthy of viewing this John LeCarre Mystery

7/10
Author: juliewriter from United States
23 April 2012

Fans of mystery writer John LeCarre will be delighted with this artistic "film noir" style interpretation of his best selling spy novel "Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy". Performances by Gary Oldman as the quietly brilliant George Smiley and Colin Firth as a mysterious leading character create all the viewer should need to enjoy this movie; but, having read LeCarre's book helps, as watching the artistry of the film goes only so far. Eventually, the viewer must come to an understanding of the plot- a story about the way clandestine operations were executed, figuratively and otherwise, in the days post Cold War. Lots of Sherlock Holmes ponder- thinking goes into Smiley's ultimate conclusions, which makes this story a classic. Oldman is the perfect Smiley, so he kept the often confusing script together, simply by bringing LeCarre's lead spy to life. I recommend this movie but also suggest the viewer enjoy LeCarre's book prior to viewing. Wonderful performances throughout the film.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Slow footed but well acted

7/10
Author: adrongardner from USA
29 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Well of course it's literate - it's a John le Carré book. Where the book moved at the rate one associates with planet formation in the solar system, the movie manages to speed things up. That is, ever so slightly.

While the movie goes it's own way in rejecting much back-story, the editing mimics a degree of the time shifting style of the book. Yet transitions are poorly placed and you wonder if you merely fell asleep and missed a bit, which is possible, than witnessed brilliant editing. The story simply isn't all that engrossing. Smiley is brought in and assembles a team to look for a mole in the "circus."

Thats about it. Few surprises and the plot, while edgy in the 1970s, now has been done over a few times even by reality in the form of Aldrich Ames. The cloak and dagger bits are few and far between, though action is appropriately brutal and well timed. The second half is far better than the first.

Performance wise, the cast is peerless. To name a few, Firth, Hardy, Oldman and Mr Holmes himself, Benedict Cumberbatch give every ounce of credibility you need for serious jobs like this. Yet, there's still something missing. While this takes a vote above disappointments like Breach or The Good Shepherd, Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy feels like a dusty old overcoat. Sneakers from 1992 was more comic, less authentic, but more interesting and a better spy movie.

Good, not great. Saved by the acting and worth a rent.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Atmospheric, but very difficult to follow

6/10
Author: Ruben Mooijman from Ghent, Belgium
11 February 2012

Atmosphere: superb. Acting: outstanding. Cinematography: wonderful. Soundtrack: very nice.

Still, I didn't like this film. And that's because of its only weak point: the storyline. I have never read the book it is based on, nor seen the television series, and I completely lost track of the intricacies of the plot. I had only a vague idea of what was going on, where the story was headed and what the time perspective was (indications of the years in the flashbacks would be helpful).

I watched this movie late on a Friday night after a busy working week, so maybe I wasn't as sharp as I should be. You have to be absolutely concentrated every single second to understand everything that happens in this film.

Perhaps the movie was not meant to be crystal clear, and perhaps the director wants the viewer to discover all the subtleties after a second or third viewing. But then you are left with lots of scenes in which middle-aged men with stiff upper lips exchange what seems to be incomprehensible inside information. The lack of much real action might be a plus for viewers who like serious films, but it's a disadvantage when you lose track of what is actually happening.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Boredom at its loveliest

8/10
Author: stensson from Stockholm, Sweden
27 December 2011

The Cold War in London 1973. Can any environment be more depressing, ugly and have worse lunch restaurants? Hardly.

Thomas Alfredson takes the challenge, the slow tempo and the complicated intrigue and lets this be John Le Carré. People say that this novel by his is the best espionage thriller ever and it is of course as far from James Bond as possible.

But it is Gary Oldman's film. His way of eating candy or correcting his glasses is art on its highest level, anyway being among a bunch of brilliant British actors. But you really have to stay awake. Otherwise you're soon lost in the most confusing plot you've ever seen.

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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

8/10
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.

****SPOILERS BELOW****

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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