Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Review

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I have no points of reference as to how historically accurate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-a film based on a T.V. miniseries based on a book- is, but the attention to detail implies cues either taken from reality or from an extremely well constructed fantasy. So, to begin with, well done.

This is destined to be a somewhat brief review since I didn’t really see the movie in its entirety. I mean, yes, I watched the whole thing, but I can’t help but wonder if one can really wrap their brain around Tinker Tailor without multiple viewings. It’s a dry, uncompromising, realist’s vision of spy fiction, everything that Quantum of Solace and the Bourne movies are not. It doesn’t coddle the viewer, slowing down to explain and pander. Not unlike the film’s protagonists, it simply carries on. As it must.

For those in the U.K., this film stars Colin Firth, Gary Oldman and Toby Jones. For Americans, this film stars Bridget Jones’ boyfriend, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and the Dream Lord from Doctor Who.
Tom Hardy’s turn as a burned, lower level spy steals the movie for a solid ten minutes, but Oldman runs the show as George Smiley, the stoically brilliant detective who quietly and unglamorously solves the mystery of mysteries. Who is the Soviet mole within MI5? Only this semi-retired expert, an outsider, can untangle the conspirator’s web. Everyone else plays second banana, though Kathy Burke gets one of the few laughs of the film when she confesses to feeling “seriously under-fucked.”

Tinker Tailor delivers just about everything viewers expect, along with a few things that they don’t. There’s quite a bit of subtext about homosexuality for example. Colin Firth’s and Mark Strong’s characters are implied to share a bond stronger than friendship, and another major player is revealed to live in secret with another man.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a good movie. But, though it kept me engaged throughout its hour-and-a-half runtime, it never really got me excited. Perhaps that’s the point, in a way. Not all movies are supposed to be entertainment. Perhaps to truly experience this film we have to live in George Smiley’s world, where London is bleak, the glory days were the war, and the enemy is everywhere. It’s hard to get very excited about that.


Writes primarily as a means of avoiding eye contact.