Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
: Faithfulness Overcomes Treason and Infidelity
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Toby
Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict
Cumberbatch, John Hurt,
Svetlana Khodchenkova, Tom
Hardy, Ciarán Hinds, David
Dencik, Kathy Burke
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 127 minutes
Distributor: Focus Features/Comcast
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Executive Producer: John Le Carré, Peter Morgan,
Producer: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn
Writer: Bridget O’Connor, Peter
Address Comments To:Brian L. Roberts, Chairman/CEO/President, Comcast Corp.
James Schamus, CEO, Focus Features (A Division of NBC Universal and Comcast)
65 Bleecker St., 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 539-4000; Fax: (212) 539-4099
The story begins with a British spy, named Jim, meeting Control, the aging head of the British Secret Service, code-named the Circus. Control asks Jim to go to Budapest and bring in a potential defector. The defector apparently has information that will confirm Control’s suspicion that one of his top men is a Soviet Communist double agent, or mole, including providing the name. The agent gets to Budapest, but the Soviets know he’s there and capture him after wounding him.
In the wake of this capture, Control is forced out of the Circus. So is his top lieutenant, George Smiley, played superbly by Gary Oldman.
Suspicion about the Soviet mole grows, however. So, the government secretly hires Smiley to find the mole, even though his old boss, Control, who is now dead and may have been murdered, couldn’t rule Smiley out. Helping Smiley is a young agent, Peter Guillam.
Smiley confirms with a retired female researcher that it looks like the mole squashed an earlier investigation into his activities for the Soviets. Smiley’s investigation ultimately centers on four men, including the suave, handsome Bill Haydon, whose affair with Smiley’s wife, Anne, led to their separation.
Led by ambitious Percy Alleline, who now heads the service, the four men are themselves secretly working with another defector who’s feeding them alleged information about the Soviets. They call this “Operation Witchcraft.” The Americans become interested in gaining access to this source, but is it all a Soviet ruse to have their mole obtain access to American intelligence as well as the Circus?
Running the Soviet mole is the Russian spymaster, Karla. Knowing this, Smiley is haunted by a decades-old meeting he once had with the elusive Karla.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is the first of a Cold War trilogy by Le Carré, which also includes THE HONOURABLY SCHOOLBOY and SMILEY’S PEOPLE. Each novel is a story in itself, however. Regrettably, after the Cold War, Le Carré seems to have turned away from the anti-communist, patriotic, though morally nuanced, worldview of those novels to write more and more left-wing, anti-capitalist screeds. Very weird!
As in the book, the movie version concentrates on giving its audience suspense rather than a lot of action. As such, it also focuses on presenting a finely nuanced character study of all the dramatis personae. All of the acting is superb, as is the measured direction by Tomas Alfredson.
That said, viewers looking for numerous action scenes and constant entertainment should look elsewhere. Long narrative monologues slow down the movie in too many scenes. Ultimately, however, they will be rewarded as the bad guys and fools get their just desserts, the Communists are defeated, and the frumpy, dedicated, older hero, Smiley, comes out on top in the catbird’s seat.
Better yet, the story’s overall thrust is morally positive though subtle. Evil and disloyalty are overcome by faithfulness. Also, in tracking down the evil double agent, and cutting through the stupidity of the fools who’ve been duped by the mole and his ruthless handler, Karla, Smiley, the hero, is relentless but compassionate.
Despite all that, TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY has some strong foul language, brief sex and nudity, and a few gruesome shots of the brutal violence that the Soviet Communists often employed in real life. Also, there’s a minor politically correct homosexual subplot in two scenes that seems a bit anachronistic. It feels tacked onto the narrative to please snarky political activists rather than regular moviegoers. Finally, at one point, a character says that Control didn’t believe and didn’t trust in “magic or miracles,” so was always skeptical about success stories from is underlings that seemed too good to be true. This comment fits into more of a humanist worldview. Consequently, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution to TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY.
As in the book, this movie concentrates on presenting suspense and nuanced character revelations rather than lots of action. Both the acting and directing are excellent. Better yet, the story is morally positive. Evil and disloyalty are conquered by Smiley’s faithfulness. Despite this, TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is slow and has strong foul language, a few gruesome shots of the brutal violence the Soviet Communists often used, brief lewd content, and politically correct homosexual references in two scenes. Consequently, extreme caution is warranted.