STUDIO: Focus Features
MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes

• Deleted scenes
• “First Look” featurette
• Audio commentary with director Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman

The Pitch

During the Cold War, espionage expert George Smiley ispulled from retirement to uncover a Russian mole at the top ranks of MI6.

The Humans

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, written by Bridget O’Connor and  Peter Straughan, based on the novel by John le Carré, starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and John Hurt.

The Nutshell

An intelligent spy movie with enough intrigue, complexity, and sexiness to choke a horse.

The Lowdown

I could never get into classic James Bond films. Despite all the action, whores, and gadgets, I never found them interesting in the least bit. Bond always seemed to me like one of the douchebags in high school who always got what he wanted. He was too “dashing,” you know? The wily old weasels who inhabit British intelligence in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are more of my cup of tea. The film is gracefully devoid of any action and espionage tropes – driven instead by shady conversations in dark rooms that are probably bugged. Rooms are always bugged.

Set during the Cold War, former MI6 agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is pulled out of retirement to help track down a mole in the agency that was planted years ago by the Russians. While the marketing might have lead audiences to believe that this is a standard thriller, Tinker is an extremely slow-burn and never once stops to hold the audiences hand through the murky world of intelligence. Director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) and the screenwriters throw a lot of information and names at you and trust that you’re clever enough to follow. Don’t get up to pee during this film, you’ll miss a massive amount of plot no matter how fast you run.

Oldman, who doesn’t speak until 16 minutes into the film, delivers a powerfully understated performance as Smiley. His silence stare is more terrifying than any pistol. It’s great to see him leading a film and even getting his adorable mug on the posters. Oldmans backed up by a royal rumble of British heavyweights – making up one of the great ensembles in recent years. Colin Firth, Stephen Graham, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch (from the contemporary Sherlock Holmes TV show), and John Hurt, as the leader of the gang. He only goes by the name “Control”, which is an immeasurably badass nick name to have. Shortly into the film, the mole plot is introduced and from then on, you’ll be suspecting everyone, scowling at everyone in this fantastic ensemble, watching their mannerisms, and not trusting a stinkin’ word they say.

The world of Tinker is complex on several levels and none more than in character motivation. The reasons that characters are disclosing or holding back information are ambiguous. Even when the mole was exposed I never got the whole picture as to why he was defecting and I liked it that way. Ambiguity is a good thing when used correctly and is a powerful tool when you want an audience to look at your film objectively. Alfredson uses ambiguity to boost the film’s intrigue and sexiness. The feeling of mystery lasts far after the credits start rolling.

It’s refreshing to watch an intelligent, adult-thriller like Tinker. Alfredson doesn’t treat his audience like idiots and tie everything together in the end in a neat little shiny package. Some people might be frustrated with the lack of explanation or emotion (a friend of mine saw it in the theater and he told me upwards of 15 people walked out) but trust me that if you sit through the whole thing, just soak in the intrigue and make sure you’re not followed.

The Package

The film is presented in 2.35:1 with 5.1 audio. I suggest turning the subtitles on. These spies speak in hushed voices.

FIRST LOOK: Features all of the primary actors sounding off on the film, their characters, and the jargon used in the secret world of MI6. Author John le Carré discusses his experience in the intelligence community and how tried to recreate this world in the novel.

DELETED SCENES: Six minutes of deleted scenes, three of which consist of Smiley frying an egg.

AUDIO COMMENTARY WITH DIRECTOR TOMAS ALFREDSON AND GARY OLDMAN: The first thing Alfredson says is that the movie is too complicated to understand without the commentary. What a card. The two deliver an interesting commentary track filled with details. Absolutely worth a listen if you loved the movie.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars