How great is it when one of your favorite actors finally gets some long over-due credit? I’ve always been a fan of Gary Oldman (Leon: The Professional) and particularly enjoy watching him play the villain. But even his role in Batman, as a good guy, is fantastic. The immediate response to the release of Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy was about Oldman’s impressive performance, a performance that would earn him an academy award nomination. Is the rest of the film as impressive?
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn’t a new story. It’s adapted from a novel by John le Carre, who has experience working in MI6 in the ’60s. The story was serialized in the UK with Alec Guinness playing the lead role. This story has been around for a while and has always been regarded as a very realistic exploration of British spy life.
George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is an aging MI6 agent who is forced out of service and into retirement against his desire. When he learns of a possible double Russian agent among the highest echelons of the “circus”, Smiley decides to investigate the matter on quietly. With the aid of Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock), and Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy, Inception), Smiley begins to unravel the dangerous truth of the traitor’s identity.
This is a slow-burner of a film that takes its time to establish the setting and characters before fully engrossing the audience in the plot. This isn’t James Bond. There are no gadgets, and very little in the way of action. Instead, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy builds a character driven suspense story that can be hard to follow but is very rewarding for those who stick through it all.
Gary Oldman plays it very tight and controlled. This is Oldman very restrained and in character and is truly played very authentically. It’s easy to believe Oldman is an actual MI6 agent. He’s subtle, which is saying a lot for Gary Oldman, but again, is perfectly suited for the type of person George Smiley seems to be. Quiet, confident, smart, and determined. Benedict Cumberbatch, despite having a fantastic name, is also superb as the young agent being thrown into the wolves’ den. Tom Hardy is also a highlight in this film, elevating every scene he’s in and making us wish for more. The others in this film, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Toby Jones and Colin Firth all play themselves, essentially, but they fit perfectly.
This is a great film with some great actors who put forth very fine performances, with a few standouts. The plot can be difficult to follow at times, but this is a suspense film and a little of ambiguity suits it well. The time period is represented well and the cinematography is enjoyable. If you don’t need constant action and enjoy a slow-burn with an enjoyable payoff, this is a film for you.
I cannot find any fault in the video presentation. If I were being picky, the video lacks a slight sharpness in some scenes, but that’s about it. Colors are subdued as is intentional, and film grain is intact. The interior shots provide a nice sense of depth and make every location feel real. I did not see any banding or artifacts at all. As far as I can tell, the video presentation is exactly as the filmmakers intended it to look.
The audio is deceptively awesome. This isn’t a booming track at all, this isn’t Transformers, after all. What the audio manages to do here is envelope the viewer with very clean, clear, and distinct sounds. This is the type of film that may be light on volume but heavy on distinction. I cannot fault any aspect of this track. Will it be demo worthy? Absolutely not. There just isn’t enough going on in the track to make it demo worthy, but when it comes to distinguishing sounds, this track is perfect.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn’t that difficult of a plot to understand, but the delivery of important plot elements often comes with little to no context. It takes a while to settle in, but it’s a great film in every way imaginable. The acting is top notch, and the blu-ray visuals nearly match the audio presentation. This is a very good release and if you can sit through a wicked slow-burn, I highly recommend this movie. Even if you’re on the fence about this film, I would still give it a solid recommendation. Give it a try!
Final thoughts on film and recommendation.