Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of those movies to which close attention must be paid. It is a dense story full of twists, turns and quiet intrigue. There are no car chases, explosions, or running gun battles. It’s a cerebral and still spy thriller; a nice change of pace from what so often falls into the “thriller” genre these days.
Based on the John le Carre best-seller (which I admit I never read, nor did I see the acclaimed BBC miniseries based on it), it’s set in 1970s London – the middle of the Cold War. There is a Soviet mole at the very top of MI6, known as “The Circus” to those in its employ, and the head of the agency, a man called “Control,” knows it. He sends an agent on a mission to Hungary to try to find out the mole’s identity. When that mission goes horribly wrong, “Control” is forced out along with his trusted lieutenant, George Smiley. But Smiley is secretly rehired by a top government official to continue the mole hunt. “Control” had narrowed it down to five suspects: Percy Alleline, code-name Tinker; Bill Haydon, code-name Tailor; Roy Bland, code-name Soldier; Toby Esterhase, code-name Poor Man; and Smiley himself, code-name spy.
Gary Oldman, who is barely recognizable as Smiley, leads an outstanding ensemble cast. Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, and David Denick are excellent as the quartet of mole suspects, as is John Hurt in the role of “Control.” Smiley is aided in his endeavors by a renegade field agent named Ricki Tarr played by Tom Hardy, and his handler inside “the Circus,” Peter Guillam, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s a lot of Brits to keep track of, and there are a lot of details to piece together before the truth is revealed. Good thing Smiley is there to sort it all out because like I said this is a plot full of twists.
This one is a thinker. But if you’re in the mood for something more than mindless movie escapism (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it doesn’t get much better than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.