During the Cold War, a retired British intelligence officer (Gary Oldman) is brought back into service to find a Russian mole in the British spy agency. Oldman realises that the mole is one of his ex-colleagues. What happens next? Read the review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for more.
Business rating: 1.5/5 stars
Star cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch.
What’s Good: The engaging script; the nuanced performances; the director’s realistic depiction of the spy-world during the post-World War II era.
What’s Bad: The slow pace of the drama; the non-linear screenplay, which also leaves many things unsaid and unexplained and hence will not be easily comprehensible to the average viewer.
Verdict: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an engaging spy-drama which will find limited appreciation at the Indian box-office, primarily because of its unusual narrative style.
Loo break: None really.
Watch or Not?: Watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy if you are a fan of spy movies.
Studio Canal’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a drama-thriller based in 1973 England, against the backdrop of the Cold War. The British Secret Intelligence Service, dubbed as ‘Circus’ by its staffers, is facing a crisis. The agency boss, Control (John Hurt), has discovered that there is a mole in the agency, who is acting as a double agent, passing information to the Russians. In order to gain crucial information about the identity of the mole, Control sends one of his agents, Jim (Mark Strong), to Hungary, where the latter is shot at in mysterious circumstances. He is reported dead and the British government comes down heavily on the spy agency for the mess up. Control, and the second-in-charge, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), are dismissed.
Next, the British undersecretary, Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney), recalls Smiley (Gary Oldman), to take up the reins of the investigation Control left unfinished. Smiley recruits a young agent, Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch), to help him in his secret investigation. Although Smiley himself was one of Control’s original suspects, he now painstakingly sifts through the agency records and ends up zeroing in on four of his former spy colleagues – the ambitious Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), code-named Tinker; the suavely confident Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), dubbed Tailor; the stalwart, Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), called Soldier; and the officious Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), dubbed Poor Man.
Smiley’s investigation gets a fillip when one missing agent, Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), shows up at his place. Ricki has fallen in love with a woman, Irina (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who claims to possess intelligence about the mole. He wants the agency to retrieve her from the Russians in exchange for the information that she has to offer.
There are also other tracks – that of a secret mission, Witchcraft, being ran by Percy, without knowledge of the agency chief; that of a mysterious Russian spy, Karla, with whom Smiley once had a memorable encounter; and others. How Smiley puts things together and nabs the mole forms the rest of the drama.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review: Script Analysis
The screenplay of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based on an eponymous novel by John le Carré. The screenplay writers (Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan) create a slow-moving but engaging plot, which frequently shifts between different time periods. As such, the details about the basic characters, their motives and realities are revealed to the audience only in bits and parts – something that will intrigue the discerning viewer but put off those who are not paying close attention or fail to be in synch with the narrative style of the film.
However, what makes up for this in the end is the beautiful manner in which the various characters and tracks of the narrative come together in the last few reels, where the identity of the mole is revealed. The dialogues are sparse but effective.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review: Star Performances
Gary Oldman shines in the role of Smiley. He delivers a restrained and believable performance. Colin Firth leaves a mark. John Hurt does a fine job as Control. As the spies, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Ciarán Hinds and Benedict Cumberbatch, stand their own. Mark Strong (as Jim) is memorable in a short role. Tom Hardy does well as the spy in love. Kathy Burke (as Connie Sachs), Svetlana Khodchenkova (as Irina), Simon McBurney (as undersecretary) and Stephen Graham (as Jerry) offer excellent support.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review: Direction & Technical Aspects
Director Tomas Alfredson’s realistic depiction of the 1970s’ spy-world – including the telefax machines, the padded meeting chambers, the cars and the costumes – adds to the authenticity of the drama. Alfredson does a fine job of telling the story in an interesting manner but, at the same time, his narrative style will appeal only to the discerning Indian audiences. Alberto Iglesias’ background score is effective. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography is gritty and realistic. Dino Jonsäter’s editing is sharp.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review: The Last Word
On the whole, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an engaging spy-drama, worthy of a watch for the superb performances. However, the film will do limited business in a few Indian multiplexes only.