John le Carré's made-for-television spy thriller, based on his best-selling novel, stunned British audiences when it aired in the late 1970s and earned critical acclaim. Finally in video form, this complex, cerebral tale explores the arcane work of intelligence officer George Smiley, brilliantly portrayed by the late Sir Alec Guinness. Europe is still in the icy grip of the Cold War as spies and counterspies wend their way through a world of treachery and deceit. Even romantic relations are suspect; Sian Phillips as Smiley's promiscuous wife, Annie, lends lurid allure to the proceedings. 5-1/2 hours on 3 DVDs.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
stars Alec Guinness as George Smiley, John le Carré's familiar, aging British Intelligence agent, called out of retirement to discover the identity of the high-ranking Russian mole who has burrowed deep into "the Circus"--codename for the British secret service. This slow-burning, complicated, and ultimately rewarding BBC adaptation, dramatized by Arthur Hopcroft and directed by John Irvin, perfectly captures Le Carré's own insight into the shady underworld of spies and the political climate during the cold war.
Le Carré's style is the antithesis of his contemporary Ian Fleming's--far from the glamorous lifestyle of James Bond, with his fast cars and faster women, these agents ride around in Skodas, and Beryl Reid is the closest thing to a femme fatale, save for Smiley's elusive wife, Anne. An extraordinary cast (including Ian Bannen, Hywel Bennett, and Ian Richardson), gritty realism, and close attention to detail make Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy an outstanding piece of television drama. --Nicola Perry