Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Despite all the buzz that surrounded the release and subsequent Academy Award nominations for Tomas Alfredson’s, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), I just viewed the film for the first time last night.  Unfortunately, this is my modus operandi of late, never quite making it out to theaters for new releases.  Too bad for me.

In general, I love spy thrillers although, I must confess that unless their premise/plot are as simple as the classic television show, Get Smart, where the bad guys are part of an organization with an obvious name like, CHAOS, I am lost.  So I spent the first hour or so of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy lost, thinking it’s a lucky thing for all I never considered espionage as a career.

After a bit of frustration, I decided to restart the film with subtitles (yes, it’s in English but between accents and spy-talk I was missing key points).  Lo and behold, it turns out it’s a fairly straight forward who done it, although written quite elaborately.  I enjoyed it after all.  The film takes place in the 1970s and centers on the British Intelligence Agency (CONTROL), referred to as “The Circus.”  Those in charge of The Circus suspect a mole among its highest officers.  In order to find the traitor, The Circus reaches out to a previously discarded member of its higher echelons, George Smiley (Oldman).  Smiley, quite adept and at home in the world of espionage, is in contrast completely lost with his personal life (I won’t get into the details but it does offer a nice duality to the character in the film).  As the film progresses we are made privy to the distrust innate in the culture of spies – no one can be trusted.  Very interesting although certainly not original.

The film is beautifully shot with many memorable scenes.  It also features an outstanding cast (John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones among others), lead by the wonderful Gary Oldman. Mr.Oldman received one of the film’s three Oscar nominations for his performance as Mr. Smiley (the other two were for the score, which I loved, and for Adapted Screenplay).  Why Gary Oldman doesn’t get many more accolades is beyond me.  He is one of the finest actors we have today.  All of the scenes in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with Oldman in it, and they are numerous since he’s the star, are mesmerizing, even taking into account my aforementioned cluelessness.  He says more without speaking than anyone else I can think of.  Brilliant performance by a wonderful actor.

The film ends very satisfactorily to me with an outstanding montage – my favorite part of the film – set to a rendition by Julio Iglesias of the French song, “Le Mer.”  Here, we see various characters and subplots finding resolution.  One could argue it’s a “Hollywood” ending, but I really enjoyed it – I’ll buy into Hollywood every time.  I liked this montage so much I watched it twice.  May do so again soon too.

My suggestion is that you should watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  This is not an outstanding film but certainly worth your while, if for Gary Oldman’s performance alone.  Let me know what you think.


  1. Really enjoyed this review. One of my favorite films from last year and I was so hoping against hope that Gary Oldman would get the Oscar for Smiley. He really is fantastic in TTSS. The scene where he sits quietly and tells the story is mesmerizing. In the film he did so much acting with just his face.
    Another standout for me was Mark Strong. Can’t say enough about this actor. His expression at the end of the film was gut wrenching.
    I like what you said about following the film and then re-starting it with subtitles. it really is a straightforward thriller but the film assumes the viewer knows all the phrases used in espionage, and yes American audiences may have had a hard time understanding the plot because of the accents.
    Anyway, well done. Captured most of my thoughts on this great film.

  2. Thanks for stopping by!
    I agree that Mark Strong is great in the film as well. Outstanding supporting cast. But Oldman is a WOW!
    I am particularly bad with accents and was missing the nuances before the subtitles. Glad I did that.


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