Skip to content

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: The Review

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and John Hurt
Plot: A British spy is called back into the Circus, British Intelligence, to figure out the mole who is hidden in their leading ranks.

I heard that Tinker Sailor Soldier Spy was a marmite movie: I would either love it or hate it. I was pulled in by the star-studded cast of British actors and intriguing story. Sadly, I fell into the group of people, who did not like it.


It starts with a mission in Hungary gone wrong. The Head of the Circus went to the Minister to suggest there was a mole hidden somewhere in their forces and the following investigation was a disaster. The Minister covers up the mess and fires both the Head of the Circus and George Smiley, his closest associate. A year passes and rumours of a mole creep back up. The minister realises that George Smiley, being out of the system for a year, is the ideal person to investigate the Circus, without being caught or coerced into keeping quiet. Therefore, Smiley begins to investigate old friends and bringing out dark secrets that shouldn’t be brought out.

I get the idea of this movie. Hell, I appreciate the idea behind this movie. It is basically the British Intelligence, without the Hollywood touch of James Bond or other movie secret agents. Therefore most of the investigation is paperwork and ITV drama questioning. Every actor does their best ‘red herring’ face, complete with shifty eyes. I don’t mind the slow approach to this and I cannot really fault the direction for being simple, as this was the whole point. However, the idea with slow direction and pace is that we have to enjoy the actual story and I am sad to say that I did not connect with the actual script at all, meaning that this entire film became a long and arduous journey for me.

My biggest problem with the story was the characters. They were so dull to spend time with. I get that the director wanted to portray these guys as grey, bland men in suits that pushed through paperwork until they found the bad guy, but they were so uninteresting to watch. The director tries his best with these people given to him by a book and a TV series, but all he can really do is cast them as big actors and hope that this is good enough. It nearly works. I may not like the lead as George Smiley, but I like him because he is Gary Oldman. However, this still doesn’t make up for a lack of characterisation on the movie’s part. Smiley has a sub-story where his wife is sleeping with a friend, but it never seems to make his character any deeper. Most of the other big names like Colin Firth and Ciaran Hinds are asked to be possible bad guys and little else. I wanted Colin Firth to have a bigger role, as this was one of the first times I had seen him in something that wasn’t a chick flick. I just wanted a little more humanity in this movie.


This is why my favourite character became Tom Hardy. He was basically this movie’s James Bond, but far more realistic. He was the expendable agent and he knew it. His seduction of a local girl nearly makes the whole operation tumble around him and he quickly turns enemy number one, when he goes off the grid, like 007 does in almost every movie. And all of this gets to him. He wears his emotion on his sleeve and becomes the greatest thing about this movie. The only other actor you end up caring about is Cumberbatch and that is only because there is a single scene, where he realises that he might become public enemy number one and dumps his lover to protect him. It is a touching scene and adds depth to Cumberbatch’s character. Although up until that point, he is still ‘just another grey suit’. Some people might like this thoughtful approach to the characters and story, but personally I want a little more depth to my spy thrillers.

So on the whole, I appreciated what this film was trying to do, but it’s just a little too grey. There are some rewarding moments by the end and I guess you are partially hooked to figure out who the mole is, but it must be said, that there were a lot better ways to handle the material. Not for me.

Final Verdict: This film might entertain some, but for me, it was just too grey and slow, with a twisting story replacing character depth.

Two Stars