Follow us on

Featured DVD / Blu-ray Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

March 18th, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was seen as a favorite to be an Awards Season player very early on. However, something strange happened as its release date neared. The buzz evaporated. It didn't sour, so the film wasn't busted Oscar Bait; the buzz just got really quiet. It did earn a trio of Oscar nominations, but otherwise it was mostly forgotten. Did it deserve better? Or was it passed over for a reason? And shouldn't the title be, Tinker COMMA Tailor COMMA Soldier COMMA Spy? I can't tell you how much that bugs me every time I have to type that name.

The Movie

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is set in the cold war era in the British Intelligence Agency, a.k.a. The Circus. In Hungary, Control is running an operation to convert an Hungarian general to their side, and to prove he really wants to switch sides, the general says he has the name of the Russian mole that was planted inside The Circus and has now risen to the top levels. Control is sending an agent, Jim Prideaux, to get the information from the general and tells him no one else knows of this mission. When dealing with a traitor, you can't let anyone know. Control was wrong about no one else knowing and the mission ends with his agent being shot in the back by an Hungarian agent. As a result of this failure, Control and his right hand man, George Smiley, are being forced into early retirement, which is a polite way of saying fired.

Flash forward a year later, and The Circus is still fighting the good fight against the Russians and an operation codenamed "Witchcraft" has been particularly successful. Percy Alleline has been milking a source, a cultural attaché named Alexei Polyakov, for a lot of information. However, they can't shake the reputation as a, "Leaky ship". An agent named Ricky Tarr calls Oliver Lacon telling him there is a mole at the top of The Circus, just as Control suspected. Control has passed away, meaning George Smiley is in a unique position. He has knowledge of the higher ups in The Circus, those that could possibly be the mole, but he's been "outside the family" long enough that he can be trusted. It takes a little convincing, but George agrees to lead the hunt, and asks for a fellow retiree, Mendel, as an assistant.

One of the first things George Smiley learns in his investigation is that Control had narrowed the list of suspects to five people, including George Smiley himself. Looking into people who left The Circus at the same time as he did he runs across Connie Sachs, who was fired by Percy Alleline after coming across information regarding Alexei Polyakov, who is the source for operation "Witchcraft". Everything seems to point to "Witchcraft", but there are a number of men that are involved that could be the mole: Percy Alleline, the Tinker; Bill Haydon, the Tailor; Roy Bland, the Soldier; and Toby Esterhase; the Beggerman.

There are very few reviews on Rotten Tomatoes that are truly negative. Most critics who disliked the film thought it moved too slowly and didn't have enough urgency to draw in viewers. However, this film has a much more realistic look at what being a secret agent is like. It's more about looking at Teletype machines than going hand-to-hand with an enemy agent. What this film has going for it is an incredibly tight script that weaves a complex mystery that will draw in viewers, despite the lack of parkour or gadgets. What you do have is a masterclass in acting involving a number of award-worthy performances. Watching Gary Oldman just sit, listen and wait is far more compelling than most action films. The plot is convoluted, which is another complaint leveled at the film by some, but it is a spy mystery, emphasis on the mystery. Once the big reveal happens, the film does indeed make sense. You certainly don't have to have read the book to understand what is happening. You just have to pay attention.

If Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was sold as an action film, then I could see the complaints leveled against it as valid. However, it was sold as a suspenseful film with more character based drama than action. In this regard, it delivers.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track with the director, Tomas Alfredson, and the star, Gary Oldman. It's not a very energetic track and there are some stretches of silence, but it is still worth listening through. Up next are six minutes of deleted scenes, some which are unfinished and are more interesting as behind-the-scenes. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy First Look is a 13-minute look at the film featuring interview clips from the original author, the co-writer, the director, and many of the cast. Finally, there are nearly an hour of interviews with many of the same people.

There are no exclusive extras on the Blu-ray, outside of bookmarks and rather generic BD-Live extras. The Blu-ray is amazing looking, albeit with a grainy look and muted colors. It's meant to look more like a 1970s film, after all. The transfer accurately portrays what the filmmakers wanted. The audio is very clear with the surround sound speakers drawing in viewers. It's not a film that will push your home theater system to its limits, but is incredible in its more subdued way.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack only costs $19.99, which is just 25% more than the DVD, making it a real bargain.

The Verdict

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an incredible film and it is better than some of the films that earned Best Picture Oscar nominations. It has a deliberate pace and a plot that requires your full attention, but it is worth it. The DVD is worth checking out, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the better deal and a contender for Pick of the Week.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy