Oliver Lacon questions George Smiley as he lures him out of a forced-retirement to spy on his fellow spies, after a Circus operative Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) makes a claim that there is a mole, right at the top of the Circus. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens with Control (John Hurt), the head of British Intelligence service who always had held his suspicion, sending one of the agents – Jim Prideaux to Budapest in order to get information about the mole in “The Circus”. With the series of intelligence information at Control’s disposal, he narrows down the list of suspect to five agents working with him.”Tinker” is Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), “Tailor” is Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), “Soldier” is Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), “Poor Man” is Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and “Beggarman” is George Smiley (Gary Oldman), Control’s trusted lieutenant.
The scene then shifts to one of the several tense and exhilarating scenes, where Jim is awaiting the Hungarian General for the secret information in an open cafe having a murky but serene surrounding that makes the situation little more suspicious & quite perturbing and is enveloped by slow and haunting score by Alberto Iglesias. Jim is shot by Soviet agent which triggers the domino effect unfolding a convoluted scheme and showcases complex dynamics of ‘The Circus’ and British Intelligence. This also results into the sacking of many prominent members including Control and Smiley.
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George Smiley has a polite demeanor, does not smile much or give anything away, and he is the man of few words. He soon gathers his team consisting of Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) & retired special officer Mendel who helps Smiley in conducting interviews and gathering vital information from the Circus. After demise of Control, Percy Alleline takes over the position of the new Chief of the Circus along with other associates. Bill Haydon as his deputy, and Roy Bland and Toby Esterhase as lieutenants, who run a secretive operation ‘Witchcraft’ to climb up the ladder. As Smiley shuffles around London interviewing characters from the past, stories emerge within stories in a typical, meta fictional le Carré fashion.
It might be quite difficult to keep up with the plot, as it never tries to teach the mechanism of its working and keeps dropping spy jargon quite frequently , yet it demands your complete attention and a little bit of your own post research to completely comprehend the plot. Adapted from the novel by the same name, John le Carré‘s book which was previously adapted by BBC as a 7 episode miniseries, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the finest espionage films ever. It is gritty, unnerving, deliberately slow paced and has restrained performances by everyone. But the script is so densely layered and the screenplay is so meticulously written that by the time end credits roll, you are in awe of it.
Furtive & emotionally restrained Gary Oldman wearing thick glasses underplays his character with such panache, that even the way he opens the mint wrapper and chew it will leave you enthralling. The rest of the cast never tries to deviate from their characters, shunning heavy studded dialogues in this multi-layered script as they take control of the central plot. As much of the credit goes to the actors and the powerful writing, the direction of Tomas Alfredson, who previously directed ‘Let the Right One in’, is flawless and smartly handled to balance right amount tension and dramatic thrills. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a superior quality cinema that needs to be watched, and rarely spy films are set in such real world, where they don’t save a day flying, chasing,fighting many men on the street or in the air or in the train, or doing impossible action scenes.