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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Movie

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 2011

Your Rating/Review

The enemy is within.

Actor-tastic adaptation of the 1974 British spy novel by John le Carré, directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) – his first English-language film. More

In the bleak days of the Cold War, middle-aged, taciturn, espionage veteran George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons, dubbed the "Circus" by those who work there.

A previous adapation was made in 1979 as a seven-part series for BBC, featuring Alec Guiness as George Smiley. Hide

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228 votes / 27 comments The Talk

  • 60 %

    Want to See it

    What say you?

    • Tyrus


    • Tim

      Very interesting.

    • synthopolis

      About bloody time!

    • sapienaustralis

      Surely nothing will match alex Guiness' portrayal in the original British TV series? I'd strongly recommend seeing that first frankly.

    • Mark

      It's been said that Paranoia is the 51st state of the United States of America so why can't they do a spy movie as good this one!?

    • Mr G

      Looks like a must see to me...

    • Mr J

      Definitely got to see it. What a cast and the British can do this sort of film so well

    • Tartlette

      Gary Oldman rocks. I'd pay to see it

    • Dion

      So long to wait. Doh. No wonder people torrent

    • Kjell

      Why do we have to wait until next year to see this? are the distributors in kiwiland mad? Saw it in London last week. BRILL.

    • Smiley

      Absolutely ridiculous that we have to wait 4 months to see this.

    • Beth

      Can't wait! Wish we could get this sooner, seems ridiculous

    • Jen

      John Le Carre about time...Wonderful...

    • Jess

      Gary Oldman! HOORAY!

    • Fooeyfan


    • Ticket Stubby

      Will be best movie of the decade as far as im concerned. You can keep your sophomoric fantasia - I will take more of this please.

    • Deep Throat

      Hmm see it on the 19th or wait till January 30th when it comes out blu ray in the UK and just import?

    • abby

      It's out tomorrow! Can't wait...

    • Caravaggio

      Love a good Spy Flick and cant wait to see this rendition

    • George

      Very good movie. Near perfect; cast, acting, cinematography, music. Gary Oldman = Best male actor Academy Award 2012 winner

    • RexH

      Just seen it, commented at length elsewhere here, but have to add: Great to see a movie aimed at adults again!

    • Nico

      Terrible movie, difficult to follow. Nice cinematography though!

    • Steve

      I saw it, was Slow moving, dull, my date was seriously unimpressed. Nothing like the trailer, 2hrs I want back!

    • Caroline

      Talk about slow,boring,dull, i want my two hours back as well! Don't even bother on dvd, what a load of crap...........

    • Sophie-Smith

      Swish! That's the sound of this movie going right over my head.

    • R-Jarden

      Office politics at their best. Well crafted this keeps you in the movie and leaves you still pondering a raft of cinematic 'clues'.


    Want to see it?


Flicks.co.nz Review



  • jessica

    i have140 questions to go!!!!!!!

  • Dave

    Think it should be a five star. Really liked it. Top shelf genre film.

comment / reply
Matt Glasby Flicks Writer

When Tinker Tailor sweeps this year’s award nominations as it surely will – this is a film that yawns with quality – the one it most deserves will be missing: Best Supporting Mote. Adapted from John Le Carré’s Cold War spy novel, Tomas Alfredson’s follow-up to Let The Right One In is thick with dust, must and ash, its ageing agents suffocating in waves of grey as they try to root out the Russian mole “muddying the waters” at M16. Is there any point? As Gary Oldman’s creased George Smiley puts it: “There’s as little worth on your side as there is on mine.” More

With its austere atmosphere, glacial pace and longwinded plot, it’s not a film for everyone. The most exciting setpiece takes place in a library, and no-one cracks out the Bourne moves. But there’s plenty for connoisseurs to savour, and all the time in the world to do so (the running time is just shorter than the Cold War itself). Oldman leads one of the best British casts ever assembled – we lose two UK acting greats before the opening credits even finish – and the film has a terrible sadness that seeps into your bones.

This isn’t Dr No or In Like Flint, it’s the prolonged and messy end of an era. Each chance of renewal (a mother suckling her baby, a bird swooping from the fireplace) gets violently snuffed out. And those dusty swirls aren’t just stylised visuals, they’re the ghosts of wasted lives. Seems some spies never did come in from the cold. Hide

The People's Reviews


9 ratings and 9 reviews


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Intelligent Filmmaking, Epic Acting!

BrionyJae Flicks Superstar (?)

I was originally drawn to this film because of the massive range of absolutely stunning actors - I mean, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy... all in one movie?! YES PLEASE. They did not disappoint, either! The slow pacing was a refreshing change from other 'wham-bam' films these days, and I am in awe of the attention to detail. All the small noises, such as the scratch of a pen on paper, all worked to create the suspenseful atmosphere. As well as this, I was struck by the fact that there was much less dialogue than other films - so much was said without words, and it was far more impacting and touching for this. It probably isn't a film for everyone, but that won't stop me from recommending to everyone! :)


  • Dave

    Archaic? Yet feels very stylish

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Beautifully crafted, yet slightly...archaic.


Really, wildly, completely brilliant in it's recreation of an era and a secret service, yet TTSSpy's plotting and sweetly taciturn characters make it drag a little. But you're always delighted by what you see, and you're always trying to figure out what's going on, so there's plenty of enjoyment to be had. It's just that the pace and the timing is from another era too, so you need to unbuckle yourself from 2012 and just give in to the beauty and the detail and the astonishing craft. Mark Strong steals the show, with, really, the most complex character who goes on the biggest journey.Not a date movie. One to see with your dad, and then go have a whiskey and chat about it in detail with him. What other films can you do that with?


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Jason bourne? Bro, real spys do it drunk!

I_GO_BY_MYSELF Nobody (?)

I wasnt sure what to expect, but, thats Gary Oldman for you. Nice to see him with a hard-to-deliver Character this time showing his full arsenal of delayed and timed speech capped of with what my mum would call -elocution? the only Man that trusts Batman, the dreadlock wearing drug dealer, and the completely wrong haircut bad guy holds this slow, yet absorbing story together. (i wont spoil it!) and If you've seen romeo is bleeding then you know he can hold a great character even though the film is more about the story than the main character. fully 60's and never detracts from it, this is a classic spy thriller, a real spy thriller, where the worlds fate of 'mutually assured destruction' (nukes!) is at stake, and even has a slight poke at the politics behind the spy game. the best conversations happen over booze, and the violence, although graphic at times, is more vignette than action sequence. I'd tell myself to watch it.


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When spying was low tech with knobs and switches.

filmlover Flicks Superstar (?)

Looking back at the cold war it would seem that spying was a career created to keep civil servants in work. Everyone was spying for everyone and those who weren't spying were keeping the spies under control.This was in incredible mini-series once upon a time with Alec Guiness as George Smiley. The movie holds up well against it with terrific performances all round.
But be warned! If you aren't old enough to remember the cold war this film may seem dull and slow.
I grew up in England during this era, and I loved it!!


  • Caroline37

    This would have to be the most boring, difficult to follow film i have seen for a long time, great cast but what a load of crap!

  • nancy doty

    I'm with Caroline. I spent $16 for a DVD of this stupid movie and wasted a whole evening on it. Why is it so highly rated?

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A stunning evocation of the Cold War era

Weds_Loafers Flicks Superstar (?)

We have been looking forward to this film and we were not disappointed. It is outstanding, as we have come to expect of the Brits with films of this nature. Further, this movie is a worthy rendition of John Le Carre's famous novel; Le Carre was an executive producer and plays a non-speaking part in a crowd scene. The casting, settings and cinematography are all superb. To fully appreciate this film, however, one needs to have come to grips with John Le Carre's style, with its abundance of understatement, insinuation and subtlety, otherwise, even with highly focussed concentration, some of the story will be lost. Readers new to John Le Carre seldom gain a great appreciation of his work on reading their first novel. If there is a negative, at times it seemed somewhat slow moving, that is the style. 4.5 stars (though 3 of us gave it 5).


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Baby it's cold outside...

adamatdramatrain Flicks Superstar (?)

Tomas Alfredson's 'Let The Right One' was a stunning revisioning of the vampire genre - bleak, cold, moody, austere and wonderful to behold. So what of his version of Le Carre's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'? Well, it too is moody and austere. A slow-burn experience amidst the flash, bang, wallop of the likes of 'Tintin' and 'MI: Ghost Protocol.' Thoughtful, beautifully and methodically shot and acted... but disengaged. I admired it in every way - but the director keeps you at a distance, and that may well be the point of course - but that ensures the audience are left out in the cold. In a world of double agents, lies disguised as truth and ruthless trickery, the individual sacrifices their essential humanity to protect... what? And there's the point. I enjoyed it and if you liked Robert de Niro's 'The Good Shepherd" you will too!


  • Dell52

    Typical British under statement and attention to detail. If you love British films you'll love this! Top actors, top photography, excellent.

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CSBright Flicks Superstar (?)

i thought it was entertaing but what i did not get it


  • Shaun

    I couldn't agree more mate, you summed up exactly how I felt about it pretty much. I can't take away from it, but it was hard to follow.

  • PeterR

    You were never meant to 'follow the plot' because there never was/is one with this sort of activity.

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Impenetrable stillness..

Mark-Roulston Flicks Superstar (?)

Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson is nothing if not ambitious. Following the success of 2008′s Let The Right One In (one of the finest films of the past decade), the director turned his attention to John le Carre's beloved novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, previously adapted into a highly regarded BBC mini-series in 1979, for his English language debut. All of the pieces seemed to fit: a supremely gifted emerging director, the huge potential in the source material, and a cast assembled from the top tier of British acting talent. Surely Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy couldn't miss, right? Not quite.

The film follows the story of retired intelligence agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman), tasked with discovering the identity of a traitor in the upper echelons of the British secret service during the Cold War. Told largely through conversations which serve as launchpads for a number of flashbacks, Tinker Tailor is, from a technical standpoint, flawlessly crafted, and Alfredson's meticulous attention to detail rewards viewers who can keep up with the level of concentration the film demands. Oldman gives a stunning performance as Smiley, one which will rank highly alongside his absolute best, not least of all for the level of restraint he displays. Where many of his best characters in movies past required some level of mania or unhinged-ness, with Smiley he is so still and expressionless that it's something of a revelation. Smiley is an observer, and Alfredson cleverly devotes much screen time to close-ups of Oldman's face and eyes, framed beautifully with his enormous bifocals (which also serve a more important, audience orientation purpose in the flashbacks). He conveys so much by doing so little, and while the supporting cast are all excellent, it's unquestionably Oldman's film.

So Tinker Tailor certainly has a lot going for it, and the look and atmosphere of the film are something to be admired to be sure. So why was it that I walked out of the cinema so confused and frustrated? Clearly, setting tone is something that is important to Alfredson, and the moodiness and creeping sense of dread in Let The Right One In is one of that film's greatest strengths. With this film however, Alfredson devotes so much to generating an appropriate mood that, in hindsight, he possibly shoots himself in the foot from a narrative standpoint. Tinker Tailor takes its time to build a wonderful tone, yet the story progression is all but impenetrable. Perhaps reading the novel or seeing the BBC series would make the film more accessible, but for those of us who haven't experienced either it can be incredibly difficult to fathom exactly what is happening for the bulk of the running time. Added to this, Alfredson refuses to use technique to assist the viewer, with the exception of the aforementioned glasses gag. Tinker Tailor demands so much from its audience that many people may find themselves, like I did, frustrated at not being able to closely follow the plot. Films that challenge you to keep up without holding your hand are all to rare, but maintaining such a level of concentration over 127 minutes is not easy for even the most perceptive filmgoer, and while it's encouraging that Alfredson assumes a level of intelligence in his audience, he may have pushed it a little too far with Tinker Tailor. But then again, perhaps I'm just not as clever as I'd like to think.


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Your review and star rating

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Press Reviews

A.V. Club (USA)

Its dealings and double-dealings will probably be better understood on a second viewing, but it only takes one to appreciate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as a film. Full review.

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)

Tinker Tailor didn't work for me. Full review.

Empire (UK)

Utterly absorbing, extremely smart and - considering this is a sad, shabby, drably grey-green world of obsessives, misfits, misdirection, disillusionment, self-delusion and treachery - quite beautifully executed. Full review.

Hollywood Reporter

John Le Carré’s complicated, distanced Cold War classic turns into a visual delight with an authentic British feel. Full review.

Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy

When a film has so many attributes—including superior performances and a tangible sense of time, place, and atmosphere—it’s tempting to overlook its shortcomings. Full review.

The Daily Mail (UK)

If you’re in the mood for expertly handled tension, subtle menace and superior acting by everyone involved, this is not to be missed. Full review.

The Guardian (UK)

A brilliant study of the disenchantment, compromise and tension of the 1970s spy game. Full review.

The New Yorker

In all its forms, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy strikes the eye, and other senses, as demonstrably real. Full review.

The Telegraph (UK)

It’s possible that this brooding, slow-burn approach to storytelling may seem old-fashioned to anyone weaned on the breathless chase sequences of modern espionage thrillers such as the Bourne or Mission: Impossible series. Full review.

Time Magazine

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is so elegant, deliberate and smart that it’s a shocker it got made. Full review.

Total Film (UK)

Prepare to lose yourself – in every sense – in a labyrinth of double-agents, deception and damn fine acting from the year’s best British line-up. Full review.

Variety (USA)

Everyone brings their A game, with Oldman setting the bar high. Full review.