The first image of Gary Oldman’s portrayal of John Le Carre’s character of George Smiley, I was reminded of an owl. An owls eyes are very large, they are extremely stealthy and in most cultures, they are seen as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. One of the biggest proponents of this as well is the fact that Oldman’s version of Smiley doesn’t speak for the first 20 minutes of the film. He watches, listens and observes as the world of MI-6 has changed, all for the worse. This adaptation of John Le Carre’s 1974 book Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy made by Tomas Alfredson, director of Let The Right One In, is a slow burn of information, espionage and a well told tale of the Cold War era.
The film takes place in the midst of the Cold War, in 1970’s England. We follow George Smiley being brought back into the world of espionage, after retiring with the former head of MI-6, Control (John Hurt). Control had a theory that one of the top agents of MI-6 had become a double agent for the Russians. Once the heads of British Intelligence come to find out that there might be truth to the theory, they decide to bring Smiley out of retirement, in order to catch the mole. Smiley enlists the few agents that he can trust in order to figure out which one of his former colleagues has gone rogue.
One of the best things of Alfredson’s version of the John Le Carre’s classic is the top tier cast he was able assemble. Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and the list goes on and on to show the stable of actor’s Alfredson had for this ensemble piece. While the 1979 mini series was much longer and had time to breath, the film demands much attention from the audience for its running time. Everything from conversations to all of the various connections to each of the characters within Tinker Tailor create a complex web of deception, that if one gives what the film demands, one shall be completely rewarded. This alone shows the ambition that Tomas Alfreson has invested within his projects, with this being only his second major feature film. There’s a great flashback sequence that is cut in various parts of the film that shows a holiday party being held for MI-6. In this sequence, we learn so much, like power struggles between characters, their motives, personalities and flaws, just by seeing them interact with one another. This sequence alone displays the level of craftsmanship in this adaptation and a fine example of how not to spoon feed the audience in modern cinema.
The video on the Blu-Ray of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, we are presented with 1080p AVC encoded transfer that looks impeccable. There’s a huge amount of grain present in the film during certain scenes that might be off putting to some people or might make them think that there’s something wrong with their TV. It is certainly not that but Hoyte van Hoytema’s wonderful cinematography on fine display and his intentional look for the film. While the grain is only noticeable for certain shots, the film still retains so much information in its look and visual presentation. If there was any disc that I’d show how Blu-Ray is just a slight step under film and show the quality of the format, I’d definitely show off Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as a fine example.
The audio on the disc is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track that is incredibly engrossing. From the use of Alberto Iglesias’ jazzy score to the subtle dialog that is handled in offices and rooms, everything about this track is just fantastic. The dynamics in the audio are in full effect, from the times when there are cars whizzing by or a gunshot that goes off, they pull of the dramatic effect they are to have on the aural experience of the film. The mix makes full use of its directionality and offers an immersive experience like no other recent spy film has.
There’s a few extras on the disc, like a few making of’s, deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews about the film, as well as an interview with John Le Carre himself about this recent adaptation. There’s also a commentary on the feature with Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman that go into various details of the film. With all of these extras like these, as well as the amazing visual and aural presentations on the Tinker Tailor Blu-Ray, its purely icing on the cake.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an accomplished and well made film that wont be for everyone. Unlike spy films like the James Bond series or The Bourne Trilogy, the film requires absolute patience and attention. An exercise in deception and betrayal, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an amazing thriller and a strays from common conventions to tell an impeccable story. If one is willing to dedicate this to the two hour running time, one shall be rewarded with one of the best film experiences 2011 had to offer. Highly Recommended!