John Le Carre’s novel of espionage Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy set during the Cold War years is a masterpiece of storytelling. More realistic than most spy fare, it takes a look at the internal workings of Britain’s top intelligence gathering community post World War II.
This film adaptation of the novel captures the essence of the times, the often bewildering and blurry lines involved with sociopolitical dealings, and the always present danger of losing yourself or your life to your job. No one wants another world war, and Britain’s top intelligence agents “The Circus” are determined to keep the peace while maintaining relations with their powerful allies.
When a beloved novel or miniseries is revisited as a new feature film, there is always a risk of disappointing a legion of fans. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy being both novel and television series has enjoyed a large following since the book’s publication in 1974 and the miniseries of 1979.
The new film is a worthy addition to the earlier works with George Smiley masterfully brought to life by actor Gary Oldham. Smiley is not James Bond, with gadgets, glamorous aliases and big explosions to remove him from danger.
Smiley is a thinking man, and therefore very dangerous to his enemies. Brought out of retirement to find a mole within the top levels of the organization, he is at odds with everyone. All are suspects, and Smiley with the help of young Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) pieces together the bits of information revealing the double agent.
A dream cast that includes Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones and John Hurt, as members of “The Circus”, the story is told in quiet scenes and flashbacks. These are blended with Smiley’s musings on present day situations so that the film is more of a philosophical analysis of the actions, rather than explosions and mass violence.
There is violence, but it is man’s inhumanity to man in order to get what he wants, manipulate the situations so that personal gain is more than national security or pride. Each actor and actress in this film contributes to the overall sense of time and place, emotional and emotionless relationships and the misty roads the world traveled in the decades immediately following World War II.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Blu Ray and DVD combo is a two disc set with some interesting special features. Interviews with several of the cast members illuminate the thought processes behind their portrayal of characters, and the efforts made to be true to the novel original.
This is a thinking person’s spy story, one that must be watched carefully for clues and ideas that help solve the mystery of the mole. Sparse in dialogue but rich in images and flashes of information, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the type of film that hangs on in the memory, even after the conclusion giving the viewer an idea of the times and the people who navigated the world into the 21st Century.
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