Looking Back…Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

To celebrate the release of Our Kind of Traitor, based on a John Le Carre novel, we look at the best conception of his work – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

I promised myself never to talk about the 84th Academy Awards. Not that I want to dismiss the achievements of the Winners involved but the Oscars in 2012 certainly favoured the novelty over talent. The fact that Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive was entirely missed out in acting, direction and picture categories still boils my blood. But more erroneous was, despite his nomination, Gary Oldman was severely overlooked at award season due to an updated elongated silent movie. Even overturned for a BAFTA, Oldham’s portrayal of George Smiley in this tense espionage thriller was truly captivating and the best performance of that year. So yes, the 2012 award ceremony was a dubious affair to say the least.

That being said, I am here to celebrate one of the finest piece of drama to come from Britain in a long time; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Only, well, it is helmed by a Swedish Director. But this Scandinavian infused masterpiece is very very British.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based on a famous novel by John le Carre (who is British, before you say anything.) Set in the early Seventies, at the height of the Cold War, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy tells the story of George Smiley who is forced, along with his boss Control, into retirement following a botched Budapest mission. However, Control’s mission had bigger connotations; he was looking for a Russian planted mole within the MI5, otherwise known as the Circus. It is up to Smiley, the only man Control trusted, to hunt down this mole and uncover him before the mole uncovers the whole system.

First things first, Gary Oldman is well known for being a versatile and brilliant actor. However, what he brings to the role of George Smiley is astonishing. He is captivating on every level. With the weight of twisting plot and Le Carres novel, it takes a great actor to not only pull us in but keep us transfixed through the slow paced movie. But Oldman here tells many stories with just a few lines and facial expressions. He grabs our attention with glances and conveys emotions through a change of tone.  Two stellar scenes stuck in my mind. His Karla monologue was a breath taking moment; you are compelled by his tale and interpretation of this invisible enemy. And secondly, the scene at the Christmas party where his wives infidelity is revealed. It is a master class in acting. There are no words spoken, no shouting or over the top accusations. Just a reaction, a silent, quivering and sorrow filled reaction that is a testament to Oldman’s expertise. There is nothing less than awe for his performance here.

And while I don’t want to make this article all about Oldman (though it is very easily done,) let’s throw a little praise to the team who have masterminded Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Alfredson give elements to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that would have falter in many other hands. With an intense and striking cinematography and an intelligent screenplay, Alfredson utilises iconic shots and great transitions into flashbacks as stories begin to interlock. Alfredson is the ringleader, transferring the Circus to the big screen.

There was every chance that a spy novel that was once a TV miniseries would falter when placed onto the big screen. But Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy is a massive and tantalising piece of cinema. With a cast that contains, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ciaran Hinds, there is nothing less than amazing here. While some may turn your nose up at a spy movie that has no explosions, a dastardly villain or at least complicated gadgets; it is a very complex yet intriguing movie.


Our Kind of Traitor is out in cinemas now! 
Read Ren’s review now! 

One thought on “Looking Back…Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

  1. I just rewatched this as well– there is so much weight in the subtlety of *every* performance in this movie, it’s crazy. Such a shame that the denseness of the plot puts people off– it should absolutely have been more widely seen.


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