Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Review

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Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Gary Oldman as George Smiley (“Beggarman”)
Colin Firth as Bill Haydon (“Tailor”)
Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr
Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux
Ciarán Hinds as Roy Bland (“Soldier”)
Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam
David Dencik as Toby Esterhase (“Poorman”)
Stephen Graham as Jerry Westerby
Simon McBurney as Oliver Lacon
Toby Jones as Percy Alleline (“Tinker”)
John Hurt as Control
Director: Tomas Alfredson

A retired spy, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is summoned by the Government to investigate a furtive case. With a secret Soviet agent assumed to be working within their system, will George be able to unveil his identity?

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I remember watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy many years ago, and it’s always been one of those movies I’ve been meaning to rewatch for some time. I remember finding it to be a good movie, but it was really slow and I didn’t understand completely everything that was going on, it was a really complicated movie. I finally saw it a second time, and I got all the acclaim this time round, it’s a very well made movie, even though I can understand why it might not work for some people.

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For those who don’t know much about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, although it’s classed as a spy movie, this isn’t the James Bond or Jason Bourne kind of spy movie. It’s an investigative and truly espionage spy movie, with complex and shifty characters in a morally grey and bleak world. There aren’t many gunshots, and there isn’t anything even close to resembling action scenes. It’s also a very slowly paced movie, and this will definitely turn off a lot of people, I will admit that there were moments where it got a little too slow for my liking. It’s more than just that it’s a slow paced movie, it’s really complicated too, and maybe even hard to follow at times. You really have to pay close attention to from start to finish, otherwise you’ll probably miss some vital details. It’s not so much that it’s bad at crafting the story for the big screen, in fact I heard that it was well done considering the source material was apparently extremely hard to follow as it was. There are just a lot of moving parts, plotlines and characters that you have to pay attention to. Even having known much of the plot from the last viewing, after my second viewing I still had to look up a couple of things about the plot to clarify a few things I wasn’t certain about. As I was, I was invested in what was going on, even if it dragged in parts and I was lost in moments. The writing is quite strong, and the dialogue quite layered, with intimate character moments and subtext carefully placed throughout. Now having quite a good understanding of what happened, I think I’ll get this movie even more on a further 3rd viewing.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has such a great ensemble cast, and all of them worked well together. Gary Oldman plays the lead character of George Smiley, and he absolutely transforms into the role. Smiley is calm and collected, yet captivating in every scene. He’s quite effectively subtle, conveying so much without having to say much. The rest of the cast are at the top of their game, with Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds and John Hurt all giving great performances. The highlights out of all of them for me were Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and Tom Hardy doing so much in their screentime.

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Tomas Alfredson directed this movie quite well, he really set it well in the time period of the Cold War. The cinematography was by Hoyte Van Hotema, who shot the movie very well. It’s a very grey looking movie, yet it somehow still manages to be visually stunning and stylish. Tomas also does well at building up an effective atmosphere. The score by Alberto Iglesias is also great and fits the movie quite a bit.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won’t be for everyone, especially if you’re expecting a fast paced movie, it might even test the most patient of viewers. From the second viewing however, I found it to be a complex, deeply layered story, directed very well and features outstanding performances from its ensemble cast. I liked it a lot more on a second viewing, and I think that I will like it even more the more I come back to it.

2 thoughts on “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Review

  1. Sam Simon

    Like you, I watched it almost 10 years ago and never rewatched it although I wanted to. I got it in DVD a few days ago so it seems I will be able to do that soon(ish)!

    I remember that I didn’t enjoy the CGI elements (also completely redundant), but that I liked the movie alright… Thank you for your review!

    Reply

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