Film Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Thomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a successfully constructed film which boasts a fantastic combination of intrigue and tension. The film should satisfy audiences beyond just espionage-thriller aficionados.

In the early 1970s, veteran British spy George Smiley is assigned with the task of finding a mole on the British Secret Service. Following his former boss’ hunch, Smiley must investigate his colleagues to uncover which one of them is leaking information to Soviet intelligence agencies…

Based on the novel by John le Carré, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a gripping film. The narrative is carefully woven by screenwriters Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan. There is a steady trickle of exposition, some of which occurs in flashback sequences. This works to keep the viewers guessing whilst retaining the big mystery. The premise of the film is fairly simple, but it is made intriguing by the different strands that operate and the increasing sense of mystery.

Pacing in Tinker Tailor is impeccable. The different strands come together effectively, building tension as the film progresses. The more dramatic scenes are executed perfectly, and work well to compel viewers. The story builds to a climax which is incredibly tense. Given the various options the film could have taken, it is unlikely that too many will guess the reveal with any certainty.

The central mystery of Tinker Tailor is very successful is absorbing the audience’s attention. At first it may seem as if there are an awful lot of players, for those unfamiliar with the novel or 1979 TV mini-series. Nonetheless, every aspect of the film is relevant to the overarching narrative. Moreover, the main players become clear as the film progresses.

Alfredson’s direction is controlled, guiding the film superbly. Shots that pull focus are a bit overused, but the film is visually gratifying otherwise. The art direction and design of Tinker Tailor is excellent. There is excellent attention to detail with regards to the early-1970s setting, with locations, props and costumes all appearing authentic for this period.

Alfredson’s film boasts a stellar British cast with does itself justice. Gary Oldman is fantastic as ever as the straight-faced George Smiley. Benedict Cumberbatch is also superb as Peter Guillam. There is not a single sub-par performance, with Colin Firth, Mark Strong and others delivering the goods.

A far cry from the glamour of James Bond films, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an intriguing mystery thriller which is difficult to fault.