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Smiley's People

4.5 out of 5 stars 215 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

"Marvelously riveting" --The New York Times "Scintillating, seductive" --The Washington Post

The thrilling sequel to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tell Max it concerns the Sandman…

Both had supposedly outlived their usefulness to the Circus, the British Secret Intelligence Service: George Smiley, the retired head of espionage, and General Vladimir, an aging informant who reported to him. When the general walks into a bullet after sending an urgent message to his old handler, the Circus asks Smiley to "tidy things up." But Smiley hears Vladimir’s message as a call to arms against his nemesis, the Soviet super spy Karla, once again tantalizingly within his grasp.

Alec Guinness reprises the role of British spymaster George Smiley in this gripping sequel to the television masterpiece Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Filmed on location in London, Paris, Hamburg, and Berne, Smiley’s People also stars Eileen Atkins, Anthony Bate, Bernard Hepton, Michael Lonsdale, Beryl Reid, Patrick Stewart, and Bill Paterson.

Special Features

Exclusive interview with John le Carré (20 min.)
production notes
glossary of main characters and terms
cast filmographies
le Carré biography and booklist

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2011
  • Run Time: 324 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (215 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,756 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrence Kinsley on August 6, 2004
Format: DVD
`Smiley's People' wrapped up the three John LeCarre Cold War novels concerning George Smiley, the lumpy, unprepossessing but brilliant British spymaster who plays a deadly game with his Russian nemesis, Karla, in the dark world of East/West espionage. As played marvelously by Alec Guinness in this filmed version co-produced by the BBC and Paramount Pictures, no matter how bland his character attempts to be he is always the center of attraction, though surrounded by great, mostly British character actors, among others Bernard Hepton as the shady, pseudo-sophisticated Toby Esterhase; Anthony Bates offering a somewhat more vulnerable version of his trademark supercilious performance as Smiley's former superior; Eileen Atkins as the doughty émigré mother of a long lost daughter who Karla has picked for his own daughter's new persona; Michael Lonsdale as one of Karla's bumbling Russian agents-in-place; and Barry Foster, in a delightful comic turn as the new head of the British `Circus' which has brought back the retired Smiley for one more foray out into `the cold.' Michael Byrne competently takes over the role of Smiley's protégé Peter Guillam from Michael Jayston (marginally better) in the earlier BBC production of LeCarre's companion Smiley novel, `Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.' Although based on a dubious premise - Karla is looking for a covering `legend' for his daughter, a schizophrenic, whom he desires to be treated in the West rather than in Russia - once accepted the film slowly but powerfully builds to the final confrontation between the two long time adversaries.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
I'm torn as to how to review this set. The acting and story itself are superb, a glorious tour de force by Guinness and those around him, and Le Carre at top form -- though if I had to rate it I'd put it slightly behind "Tinker Tailor" in terms of gripping storytelling, this set is close behind. Rather than be duplicative, I'll let the other reviews speak for themselves on this element of the set.

But the transfer, the transfer is simply terrible. Someone cheaped out on the restoration of the sound in particular, and there are more than a few moments when the dialogue is essentially inaudible, a problem in a production as complex and deft as a BBC workup of a Le Carre drama. This is why I give this set three stars instead of the five the story and acting so richly deserve. Expect to have the sound cranked up uncomfortably loud while viewing, and still miss some dialogue.

You may be thinking that this is a thick American who doesn't understand English accents, but I followed every word of Tinker Tailor, which is a greatly superior transfer, though not itself great by any means.
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Format: DVD
SMILEY'S PEOPLE is a slight come down after the glories of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY, but this needs some explanation. The latter is in my opinion one of the three or four finest things ever produced for television, while the former is merely one of the fifty or so finest things. He is easily one of the best things ever to appear on TV; it simply fails to be as glorious as the preceding series.

Both series contain virtues that are rare in television: enormous patience in developing a complex and challenging narrative, a refusal to insult the intelligence of the viewer (instead of making every point achingly obvious, they assume we'll figure it out eventually), a willingness to be content with small moments of drama instead of epic action sequences, and acting that can compete with that of the most outstanding Shakespearean production. In every way, this is the anti-Jame Bond spy drama. Though George Smiley's nemesis Karla (played in both series by Patrick Stewart, a nonspeaking role he undertook several years before becoming famous in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) emerges as a more than adequate villain, he would be by far the least charismatic bad guy in all of the Bond corpus. Narratively, almost nothing happens in contrast to a Bond film. The series contains the results of violence, but almost all of the actual violence takes place off screen, or even prior to the narrative timeline. Like a Bond film, the series features several international locations, but there is none of the cosmopolitanism of the Bond films, and absolutely none of the glamour. Indeed, much of the series features sets that are a bit dowdy, worn, or frayed. But the greatest contrast with the Bond films comes with George Smiley himself.
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Format: DVD
Perhaps two of the most intelligent television miniseries ever made are the BBC adaptations of John le Carre's spy novels TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY and SMILEY'S PEOPLE, the latter being the sequel to the former. The late Sir Alec Guinness, who brilliantly starred as George Smiley in both, became identified with that character for all time.

As you may recall, TTSS and SP were the first and last books, respectively, of the Karla series. (The second, THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY, was never adapted to the small screen. The plot was considered too complex.) In TTSS, Smiley, formerly right-hand man to the Director of the British Secret Intelligence Service (the "Circus" or MI-6), is brought out of retirement to dig out a highly placed Soviet mole embedded in the Circus. In SP, it's several years later, and Smiley is brought out of retirement a second time by the politicians to "tidy up" after a Russian emigre, a former general, is brutally murdered on Hampstead Heath. Because the old soldier was an occasional source of information for the Service, the "Minister" wants George to make sure there's no embarrassment to the government in the affair. Smiley soon discovers that the killing has a link to Karla, his old nemesis in the KGB's Moscow Center. Karla has been a thorn in the side of MI-6 for years, and was the one who controlled the mole that was Smiley's quarry in TTSS. In SP, George finally brings Karla down.

Several of the characters appearing in TTSS appear also in SMILEY'S PEOPLE, providing a nice touch of continuity: Smiley, Oliver Lacon (the Minister's lackey), Anne (Smiley's wife), Connie (MI-6's Head of Research, retired), Toby Esterhasy (one of the high Circus executives under suspicion in TTSS), Karla, and Peter Guillam (Smiley's right hand in TTSS).
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