Director: Tomas Alfredson

Writers: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan based on the novel by John le Carre

Principal cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Tobey Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds and John Hurt.

Release date: 16th September 2011.


Disgraced intelligence officer George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is brought out of retirement by Westminster to weed out a Soviet mole working within the hierarchy of the Circus (the code name given to MI6).

Based on the information acquired by field operative Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) during his work in Istanbul, Smiley is lead to believe that the traitor within the ranks may be one of several highly placed former colleagues.

Recruiting the services of current spy Peter Guillium (Benedict Cumberbatch) and thus monitoring the internal workings of The Circus, the former cold war agent turns spy catcher as Smiley closes in on the double agent.


John le Carre’s seminal cold war thriller was first published in 1974 and was famously adapted by the BBC in 1979 with Alec Guinness cast as the disgraced spy come in from the cold, George Smiley.

Gary Oldman’s portrayal in the current adaptation makes perfect sense as the role continues to require an actor who can combine subtlety with an ability to bury themselves within a character who is firstly an observer and collector of facts.

But beneath Smiley’s logical and calm exterior lies an individual who would kill in cold blood without a moment’s hesitation if the circumstances called for it.

Alfredson has assembled the cream of British talent to bring his reworking of the book to the big screen with the haunted and aged spy hunter sharing the screen with a cast that includes current favourites Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and Mark Strong alongside the established class of Tobey Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth and the legend that is John Hurt.

Make no doubt that this is a stylish and taut exercise in drawing in the viewer with the ruthless and almost workman like characteristics of it’s spies combined by the emotive acting on display as hardened men come to terms with the sacrifices made in their personal lives.

The performances are especially impressive with both Tom Hardy and Mark Strong each adding stand out moments and dropping the persona of their recent alpha male roles to portray men internally scarred by the service undertaken in the defence of the realm.

The actors are also strongly complemented by a production value and visual flair that not only evokes the paranoia of the cold war but lushly recreates a Britain fading in its grandour as it enters the turmoil of the Seventies.

Any fears that John le Carre’s maze of a plot may be lost in the film’s running time are laid to rest as both the screenplay and director manage to cover all the main bases in an emotionally taut and highly entertaining two hours of espionage.


Oldman provides a master spy for a masterful piece of filmmaking. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is an intelligent and sophisticated exercise in old school suspense that gradually draws in the viewer whilst also providing an emotive tour de force beneath the hardened surfaces of its cold war operatives.

A classic in the making that is fully recommended.

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