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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Blu-ray Five Stars
I was excited to receive a copy of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as it's one of the many films I missed last year in the cinema but was desperate to see. The adaptation of the John le Carré novel was one attraction, the cast of Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Graham was another, and the final piece was the fact that Tomas Alfredson, who had directed the excellent, Let the Right One In.

With all these pieces in place it looked as though we were onto a fantastic thriller and the teasers, trailers and the reviews all pointed to that very same thing. Yet despite all the critical acclaim and the positivity from critics, reviewers and audiences we're still waiting for the deluge of intelligent, adult thrillers.

Still, back to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the film in hand, and how it looks when released on Blu-ray.

Plot.pngTinkerTailorSoldierSpyPoster.jpgDuring the Cold War, when American and British secret services were staging a quiet and secretive war against their equivalent Russian secret services, the head of MI6 and one of his trusted and closest team members George Smiley are forced to retire early from the agency. Soon after Smiley is approached by a higher power within the Government asking if he would come out of retirement and carry out a covert investigation into the head members of the MI6, one of whom has been revealed as a Russian mole, a mole that has been inside the higher reaches of the MI6 for years. Smiley and a small team have to quietly investigate each of the upper echelon of the MI6 and discover who the spy really is, codenames Tinker, Tailor, Soldier and Spy.


TheFilm.pngJust moments into the film and you can see the strong sense of style throughout. There's a wonderfully muted and smoky feel to the film that sets the time of the film very easily without the need for plenty of props dating the film in our minds.

There are bags of style throughout the film through the careful set design and costuming that never goes too far and doesn't even give the faintest whiff of the idea of kitsch.

This careful consideration of every aspect of the film is also carried through into the musical score, the next aspect of the film which is noticeable. It keeps the same ideals, powering the film forward through each step of the story, helping with the strong pacing that the entire film exhibits and through every single character choice.

The film does carry a fantastic pacing, and not in the traditional sense of pushing forward each scene, firing the information at the audience and powering onto the next moment. Here it's a much more careful and considering pacing, taking a time for ideas to mature and develop, for characters to make their own connections and carry out tasks in their own pace.

This is particularly evident with the main character of George Smiley, played amazingly well by Gary Oldman who not only channels some of the Alec Guinness character in there but also creates his own slightly more menacing touch to the character. It's not something you ever see, just sense.

Smiley never does anything overly physical, this is a real agent of the intelligence services who looks, documents, processes and understands. His actions are not those of a Bourne spy, and when his hands need to get dirty he turns to the front line agents, ones such as Ricki Tarr, played by Tom Hardy. Even then the action is quick and decisive and there is little of the traditional physical action you associate with on screen spies, these characters are playing the real thing.

This in itself gives a superb pacing and thoughtfulness to the film, and with the story being rather complex and never handing it to you on a plate you find that you are having to use your brain a lot more than anything coming out of Hollywood. You have to remember characters, remember their actions, words and motives, and to a certain degree like Smiley himself, you have to make the connections.

For me this is the most rewarding type of thriller, it's one where you not only feel some involvement but also feel a lot of pay off and benefit, and the film does provide that for when you do make the connections and see the reveals opening up it makes for a much more rewarding moment.

Peter Straughan and Bridget O'Connor have delivered a fantastic screenplay from John le Carré's novel, one that is packed with details and information that would seem almost impossible to squeeze into a film version, and yet they've managed to compact the novel into a fantastic story.

Tomas Alfredson has then taken that script and together with cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, production designer Maria Djurkovic, editor Dino Jonsäter, and the many more talented people behind the scenes have delivered a powerful and visually enticing thriller.

The cast of actors is a key part in all of this for they all deliver fantastic performances. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a great performance as one of the key players in Smiley's investigation, and once again I was really taken by Mark Strong's performance, an actor who I find never fails to deliver.

His performance is one of the best of the film and watching his character change over the period of the film as well as his relationship with Colin Firth's character unfold and develop is one of the strongest parts of the film, and something that many people forget, favouring Oldman's performance, which itself is another of the key strengths of the film.

I enjoyed the way that the different timelines and threads of stories played out on screen, especially the way that the story continually reverted to the office Christmas party and how slowly, subtly and without much fanfare some connections were made and reveals were cemented.

One of the moments I remember most is the way we return to two of the characters at the party to exchange a look of common understanding which has been paid off in the dramatic scene prior where the story of the double agent is wonderfully and powerfully completed, a surprising ending but beautifully completed by the return to the party.


Audio.pngDTS HD Master
The film has a strong soundtrack that does make use of the directional sound and directional travel around the speakers when needed, something I found surprising in such a thriller. The audio track and the score are used very well throughout to compliment and build on the story.


Picture.png2.39:1
Bold colours and excellent cinematography bring the set design and costuming to life capturing the period and the locations. The film has a great picture that carries a slight grain in places that has the affect of aging the film rather than making it look like a poor picture, and the smoky and muted feel in many of the scenes helps pull us into the setting.


Extras.pngBehind the Scenes Featurettes; Interviews; Deleted Scenes; Premiere Featurette; Sky Movies Featurette; Gallery; Audio Book Excerpts
Featurettes: Smiley; Inside the Circus; Shadow World; John Le Carre
These are short publicity featurettes which are best watched with the "Play All" option giving you a decent length of featurette about the film. There's nothing ground breaking, just the standard publicity clips with the stars, director and author talking about the main character and the setting.

Interviews: Gary Oldman; Colin Firth; Tom Hardy; Director Thomas Alfredson and writer Peter Straughan
The interviews are short but they do provide for some interesting comments and insights into the three actors interviewed. I was particularly surprised by the way Tom Hardy talked so openly in his interview and his story about his first and second reading.

Interview with John le Carré
The interview with the author of the novel covers everything from his books, film adaptations, all the way to his own time in the secret service. He really does offer some very interesting stories and viewpoints, and his comments on his books that will now never be made because studios have spent too much on abortive attempts to make them are rather depressing. One of the highlights of the extras.

Deleted Scenes
There are a few deleted scenes that don't really add a lot to the film or the extras.

UK Premiere Featurette
This is a standard featurette from the red carpet with some snippets of star interviews.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Sky Movies Special
More of the interviews that we have seen previously and these provide a lot more insight into the film and the actors. The Tom Hardy interview clips were especially interesting to watch as he appears as such an interesting and open bloke.

Photo Gallery
Some stills from the film.

Audio Books
I was excited when I saw this originally; however these are only the opening chapters for The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. I had really hoped that the book itself would have been on the Blu-ray. Still, it's a nice way to see if the two books would be interesting if you've read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The audio book introduction to this very film is missing though.


Overall.pngTinker Tailor Soldier Spy is very much the kind of thriller I expect when I hear the word thriller, not the action orientated, handed to you on a plate films that are delivered from Hollywood. What's more attractive about this film is that the quality isn't just in the writing and the delivery; it pours through every aspect of the film and can be seen in the smallest look, the shortest comment, the production design, the editing, and the score.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is filled with superb performances from some of the best actors we have to showcase, and while many cite Gary Oldman has stealing the entire show, I do think that more attention should be given to Mark Strong's performance.

Delivered with style and a wonderfully considered pace, this is how thrillers should be made, instead of handing the story to the audience they are pulled into it and forced to keep up with their mind as well as their eyes and ears.

The Blu-ray could have done with a few more substantial extras and less of the publicity featurettes, but it does offer a fantastic picture and audio quality and the interesting interviews with the stars and author.



UK IMDB Film Details
Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
Buy or rent from LOVEFiLM
Buy John le Carré's novels from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com




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Comments

I thought TTSS was an excellent movie - superb cast and acting, very stylish setting (Maria Djurkovic, who I used to know, got the feel of the 1970s down to a tree) - but didn't actually feel engaged by it: I didn't really care about any of the characters!

It is strange to feel so positive about a film and yet feel so divorced from it at the same time!

Is this blu ray region "B" locked?

I'm struggling to find information on whether it's locked or not Lisa, but a great place to find out is MovieTyme who actually test discs, although I can't find any mention of it online as yet, my notes from the marketing company do say it is Region B, but that does not mean it's actually encoded.

I kind of like that feeling Patrick, although I did connect a little with some of the characters, perhaps Mark Strong's most as he showed more human weaknesses, it is a good point that we are kept away from the characters somewhat. Part of that is that I feel the ambiguity of them all, even Smiley feels like there's an undercurrent of something to his character, I felt his last scene was a tad menacing and ominous.

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Movable Type 3.34

Nobody's done anything to my book. It's right up there on the shelf. Hollywood mangles movies, not books.
- James M. Cain, writer of The Postman Always Rings Twice