Review: Tinker Tailor Solider Spy (2011)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy
Based on: the novel by John le Carré
Genre: Thriller
Released: 16 September 2011
by Studio Canal
Running time: 127 mins (2 hrs 7 mins)
Cert: 15 (BBFC) R (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★

IMDb | View Trailer

A year after he was forced into retirement, ex-spy George Smiley is called back by a Cabinet office official when information comes to him that there may be a Soviet spy – a mole- at the very top of the British secret service. Smiley had been forced out along with Control, the head of the spy agency, after a disastrous mission in Hungary where a colleague, Jim Prideaux, was shot. It was also an unhealthy time in the secret service, known affectionately by its members as the Circus, with several senior officers having developed a new source of information in the USSR but refusing to share that person’s identity. Smiley agrees to return and in the course of his examination learns that the secret Soviet source has become the mainstay of the service, one that they soon plan to use to get at US Intelligence information. Smiley soon realises that the Soviets have turned the service inside out.

I watched this movie when it was in the cinema, but didn’t review it. Oops! When it first came out, I just had to go see it. Gary Oldman is one of my favourite actors of all time; he’s a beast (so is his sister. That was mean of me to say)! Also, I really like spy thrillers so this movie was right up my street.

I love spy movies (excluding the James Bond movies, yuck) and the setting and time of this movie really interested me (London during the Cold War) and the cast is both high and low-profile at the same time (high if you’re familiar with British television and films, low if you’re not); Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch (from Sherlock) and Kathy Burke (from Gimme Gimme Gimme), for example.


I’m not going to lie, if you haven’t read the book or your mind tends to wander, the plot will be confusing the first time round (I’ve been told that the original series starring Sir Alec Guinness is even more confusing). I’ve watched this for a second time and I still don’t fully understand. My dad had to explain the whole thing to my mam who didn’t understand at all (she also fell asleep six times and missed her beloved Colin Firth).

What made the plot confusing is the number of flashbacks. One minute John Hurt is dead, the next he’s alive. In the past. The amount of people who I thought were dead is insane. And to add, my dad said that Colin Firth was in a secret relationship with the man who “died” in Hungary, but IMDb says that Peter Guillam (Cumberbatch) is the one who is gay! I need to lie down and rest my brain…

As I’ve said before, Gary Oldman is one of my favourite actors (I shout “GAZ”! every time I see him) and I really wanted him to win the Oscar for Best Actor (it went to Jean Dujardin instead). I loved how when you’re watching him in a movie, you’re not watching Gary Oldman, you’re watching his character. Here, you’re watching George Smiley. I love how Smiley is a mysterious character; you never know much about him or what he is thinking.

Something that I found somewhat fun was figuring out where I had some some of the cast members. Obviously there was Kathy Burke and Benedict Cumberbatch but I also recognised Simon McBurney from an episode of The Vicar of Dibley. He was the choirmaster in the episode where the Dibley Parish Church have the opportunity to appear on Songs of Praise.

I liked how realistic the movie is. The settings and costumes were incredibly convincing and I felt like I was actually in the time, just eavesdropping on all of the goings-ons in the British Secret Service. I could really feel the tone of the time period and everything was a bit grim, if that’s the right word to use.

Although I loved the cast, the characters, the tone and even the setting, the confusing nature of the plot really lets the film down. If I hadn’t gotten lost while watching, this movie would have gotten a higher rating. Oh well.

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