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Showing 1-10 of 624 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 878 reviews
on October 31, 2016
I have now seen this film for the third time. Every time I see it, I appreciate it on a higher level.

The primary thing that struck me on this viewing was how well the screenwriters and director captured the flavor of a John le Carré novel. Le Carré is not casual reading. Any devotee will tell you that the reader must concentrate fully and that a casual phrase in a sentence can be important to comprehending a complex detail in the plot's development.

Likewise, this film is demanding, requiring the the viewer's complete focus. The elegant way in which the story line is developed and the film is edited, involves frequent shifts of foreshadowing and flashback, much the way a Le Carré narrative is structured. This challenges the viewer to stay engaged. But on repeated viewing, one begins to follow the internal logic of film's construction and then other distinctive features come into focus, such as the outstanding filmography, superb acting, and the wonderfully atmospheric score by Alberto Iglesias.

An additional word about the screenplay. No two-hour film can capture the breadth and fine detail of a Le Carré novel. The writers of this film had a huge challenge to adapt the author's rich prose, complex plot and Dickensian characterizations for cinema. Their objective could only be to retain the essence of the book's story line within the context of its philosophical themes. This they have accomplished artfully. Together with the fine casting and acting throughout, I believe this film will eventually be recognized as the most successful adaptation of a Le Carré novel.
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on August 10, 2012
I hadn't watched this movie in a while, just watched it again, and saw the huge number of one star reviews. I read probably 15 or so. They break into two sets, roughly. One that liberties have been taken with character/action compared to the book, the other that it simply didn't make sense.

I'll take the second one first. This a story, maybe THE story, written about trying to discover a double agent who has worked his/her way very deeply into an enemy spy agency. I.e. it's probably the hardest thing for _actual_ spies to deal with, since everyone could be suspect and not only _could_ the mole be someone you know, if you're important enough as a spook you _should_ know the mole. Probably quite well. So the plot is going to be a little harder to grasp than Mission Impossible or an adaptation of an Ian Flemming book. However, this book is closer to what the life of an actual spy might be, because the guy who wrote the book _was_ and actual spy.

The first argument, that too many liberties ate taken with the book, is preposterous. That a character here or there is combined, or that some license is made adapting a 200 page book by a master suspense writer, is not just unsurprising but is necessary. A fair number of this crew also seem to have a terrifically rough time with the fact that Peter Guillam has been changed into either a bisexual or gay character. They mention his 'robust' heterosexuality in the book a lot. If you think about it a bit, there was a very good reason for making that change for the film version. If you don't think of it, keep trying. All of the other changes should be filed under 'necessary' or 'of little import' and occasionally 'an improvement.'

For example, the Jim Prideaux character gets I think a better treatment in this version than in the book. The relationship between Smiley and his wife is not nearly as explored, but my guess is le Carre and Alfredson decided that could be a movie of its own. Toby Jones as Percy might overdo it a bit, but then again maybe not. There are plenty of sniveling pricks in any bureaucracy. Gary Oldman had some limits on what he could do with Smiley because he didn't have the body type (dumpy, overweight, poorly dressed, unassuming), Oldman is a fundamentally magnetic actor, and he didn't do as much direct interrogation which is where Smiley is largely fleshed out, pun intended, in the book.

However, if you can (all the way here in 2012) accept Peter Guillam is now gay and that Smiley isn't the exact Smiley le Carre put into the book, there is a whole lot the movie gets right. The cloak and dagger stuff within the agency, between ladder climbing types. The constant problems with money the English government had at the time when the pound had been devalued and the country was still not completely recovered from WW II. I've spent a good bit of time in Budapest and Istanbul and the scenes in Istanbul feel like Istanbul and the scenes in Budapest are eerily correct, even though the latter were shot in Prague. I don't know HOW they did that but they did. The performances of everyone, from Oldman down to Svetlana Khodchenkova as Irina and Tom Hardy's lovesick Ricky Tarr, was fantastic. Benedict Cumberbatch was a brilliant Peter Gilliam, handsomer and more upper class than Smiley, but who comes to trust his partner more and more as the film goes on. Lastly, the locations, costumes and cinematography are spot on for the era. It looks like slightly faded Kodachrome 64 to me, already turning a little green.

Just watch this film, folks, and if you need to watch it a second time to get a plot twist right here and there that you might have missed during round one.
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on July 1, 2017
I agree with the 5-star reviewers here in that this is a well-acted movie full of England's best actors. I also agree with the 1-star comments, though, in that the film's pace is the very definition of the word "lugubrious". I suppose that's why my rating is somewhere in the middle.

There are a few things that make watching this more enjoyable. For instance, don't watch this at night, unless you're having trouble sleeping because the slow pace and the dull color palette will knock you right out. Someone else here said the same and I concur.

It also really helps if 1) you've read the book and 2) if you were actually alive in the 70's to know that they got the clothes and the paranoia and the tensions between the West and the Soviet Union dead on. I was a small child in the 70's, but I remember how things were, then. So, I have to give the film points for accuracy.

The film moves along with very hard cuts between scenes and places, oftentime. So, if you don't already know the general story, you're going to be very confused and the whole thing is going to seem extremely disjointed.

I haven't yet seen the Guiness mini-series, so I have nothing to compare this latest film to. I assume Guiness is better than Oldman because, hey, it's Obi-Wan. Even Vader couldn't beat him. But, Oldman gave a very good -- and unusually restrained -- performance. All the acting was good. The problem wasn't there, it was with the storytelling. They did a great disservice to younger people who might have become new LeCarre fans through this remake because the didn't really explain things enough. It is not accessible to newbies.
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on November 19, 2013
I am a great fan of John le Carre's cold war spy novles, and I have read his "TTSP" twice (or was it three times?). I have also seen the BBC's multipart adaptation for TV (1979), starring Alec Guinness as the Brit spy master George Smiley, in its entirety at least 3 times. In this film version, I found actor Gary Oldman's portrayal of Smiley to be superb (as, apparently, did le Carre himself, judging by comments that Le Carre himself made about Oldman's portrayal). There are some (more or less) significant discrepancies in plot between this version and le Carre's novel (as well as the BBC's adaptation -- which followed the novel very closely but which lasts 3 times longer than this recent film adaptation starring Gary Oldman). Some differences between this new adaptation and le Carre's novel: in the novel, Czechoslovakia doesn't play into it. Instead, the Brit spy Prudeaux goes to meet the defector in Budapest, Hungary. In the novel, the Soviets (ie, Karla) are more subtle in covering their bases when they realize that one of their trade delegates intends to reveal the identity of their mole (in this newest film version, the Soviets brutally murder signalsman Tufty Thessinger and disembowel the husband of a traitorous woman trade delegate in a bathtub -- in the novel, neither killing ever happen - the novel [and the BBC's TV version, which followed the book very, very closely], the long arm of Soviet espionage is more subtle and, for that reason, more frighteningly insidious -- this insidious quality of Karla's methods is even more well displayed in the BBC's multipart TV version of the second novel in le Carre's Smiley-Karla saga, entitled "Smiley's People"). All that being said, I really, really liked this new version of TTSP. There are very nice touches in this film (eg, after the aging Control's death from natural causes in hospital, Smiley [who by this time had been forced into retirement from the British intelligence services] goes with his loyal intelligence-operator/helpmate Peter Guillam to inspect Control's flat. Some files are found sitting in a cardboard box on a table. There's an old label on on the side of the box. The label reveals that originally, what came in that box was a phonographic turntable. A quick Internet search reveals that the make and model of that turntable roughly corresponds to the time at which the events in this film are taking place. And in the very first scene in the film, which involves Control, he is listening to a phonographic record. The film is full of nice little touches like that. There are some things in the way this film handles le Carre's narrative that I don't particularly like (eg, in this new film version, le Carre's character Toby Esterhase, who is by birth a Hungarian and who is ethnically a Magyar, is somewhat ambiguously recast as "Toby Esterhouse" [albeit, for some reason, Internet sources such as IMdB and others continue to spell this character's name as the name is spelled in le Carre's novel -- nevertheless, in this new film version, the pronunciation you hear spoken by the characters is very much Anglicized, unlike in the BBC's versions of TTSP and Smiley's People); for me, Esterhase has always been one of the more interesting characters in the Smiley-Karla narrative (I hear echoes of Esterhase's voice in certain words spoken by characters in the current Showtime Network TV drama, "Homeland" -- a drama that I've noticed has borrowed a few things from le Carre's Smiley-Karla narrative), but in this new film version, he is characterized in a very different way with virtually no backstory (of course, to get all of these elements into the movie would make the movie 6 hours long). Another thing is the way this new film portrayed Smiley's wife, Ann -- a relationship which is really very important to le Carre's narrative. In this film, Ann is almost invisible except as a kind of "tart-icon" (I'm thinking in particular of how she is portrayed during the MI5 Christmas party). But again, if you want to make a 2-hour film version of TTKS, you're going to have to leave a lot of le Carre's narrative sitting on the cutting room floor. (On the other hand, I found the way this new film portrayed the character of Connie Sachs interesting. Before Connie was forced into retirement prematurely, she was an intelligence analyst who was affectionately referred to by colleagues as "Mother Russia" because of her encyclopedic knowledge of Soviet political-espionage arcana. In le Carre's novel, Connie is a really interesting character. Her portrayal in the BBC (6-hour) version is arguably the "reference standard," but this new film's portrayal is really interesting, and it would be hard to say what it is about the characterization in the 6-hour version that is absent in this new adaptation.)

Despite all these "problems" (mostly involving what the director of such a film version is going to include and what he or she is going to omit), I really, really like this new version -- I really like Gary Goldman as Smiley. I really do. I think he's great as Smiley. I'd like to see more of him as Smiley. There's a quietness to his Smiley that kind lends a sense of the inevitable in what goes on. (That quietness is never more eloquent than when, after Smile's orchestrated the capture of the mole and the mole has been thoroughly interrogated by the inquisitors and Smiley is speaking with him for one last time, the mole tells Smiley in the most sincere, plaintive voice that he became a Soviet agent in order to make a difference, to be "important" - the little glance that Smiley then gives the mole is truly eloquent -- I doubt any actor could have delivered that glance better than Oldman did -- and in my view, it was thoroughly le Carresque.

Underlying the tension in this movie is a quiet sense of pathos that gives this film a richness that I don't see in any other political/espionage and that seems to me to be very much in accord with the feel of le Carre's cold war novels (and which is also permeates his novel "Little Drummer Girl," which is a really extraordinary novel about political terrorism published in 1983).

If you know le Carre's novels, I think you'll find this film adaptation interesting (and you just may love it).
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on May 23, 2017
The quote in my title is a line from the movie, but it could apply just as easily to the movie itself. I found the book slow-going and then absolutely phenomenal and impossible to put down, and the movie provided a welcome way to get back into George Smiley's world of spies. Yes, the movie can't quite rise to the level of the book. It is a movie, and the book's author is John Le Carre. What did you expect? It's a great movie nonetheless, with a fantastic cast. I loved it. (And yes, it is not as good by far as the 1979 BBC miniseries with Alec Guinness as George Smiley, but the BBC miniseries has the luxury of being much longer. This movie does a great job of giving the 2-hour-long version.)
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It is inevitable that this movie would be compared to the phenomenally well received 1980 version starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley. It does not make the grade on several points. It might be worth mentioning its successes first.

Since this was made 35 years after the book was written, and perhaps 45 years after the period it describes, yet it was filmed in contemporary London, it was a challenge to evoke the early post-Cold War period. The design, camera, and music crafts accomplish this by giving the whole look and feel a "film noir" atmosphere, often in shadows. That worked; however it tended to exacerbate some of the film's problems. Gary Oldman was first rate, in an incredibly low key way. I would bet that he studied Guinness' acting in the part and tried to mimic that effect. One thing which helped is that Oldman is closer to the age of Le Carre's character as written in the novel, which works better with the scene with former Circus head of research Connie Sachs. John Hurt did well in the brief role of "Control", playing it with a lot more feeling than Alexander Knox in the TV series. Like all other characters, Benedict Cumberbatch's role is short and poorly filmed, but it comes off more believable than Michael Jayston's performance as Smiley's colleague, Peter Guillam.

The biggest single negative mark compared to the TV series is that we are given no time to get to know these characters, especially since many are played by unfamiliar faces. The only actors I recognized aside from the three above are Colin Firth as Bill Hayden and Ciaran Hinds as Roy Bland. And for as good as both of those are, there was precious little time seeing them on screen to get a read on their personalities. In the TV series, you could instantly get a sense of their personalities in a delightful early slowly played scene. Part of the problem may be that there are precious few close-ups of characters' facial reactions. Half the time, it seems the camera is too far off to catch the good stuff. This is made worse by the darkness of most scenes.

It is understandable that many scenes would be cut or abbreviated or presented in a different way, but the "abbreviation" seems choppy. Both this version and the TV version were true to Le Carre's plot style with multiple flashbacks. Whenever I get a far better understanding of a film on second viewing, I sense that far too much was left on the cutting room floor. When I started watching it for the first time, I felt so disjointed, that I stopped and watched the TV series again, so I could get a better handle on the plot and characters.

My biggest feeling of loss was the fact that we get little good sense of major characters, and virtually no good sense of lesser characters. From the 41 roles in the TV series, characters with several major scenes are cut entirely, such as the delightful scene with Joss Ackland as Jerry Westerby and Sian Phillips as Smiley's wife, Ann. Treatment of some minor characters seems to be an afterthought, instead of the depth given in the TV version. Hopefully, without giving anything away, I think both the climax and the denouement were let downs.

I think that if I had not seen the Alec Guinness version, I may have liked this better, but that's the name of the game when one evaluates artistic works. How do they stack up to similar works.
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on May 28, 2013
Unlike so many "spy" movies, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy features none of the car chases, gun battles, or naked women that have become stock-in-trade for the genre. Instead, you'll be treated to the intellectual side of things as George Smiley unravels the layers hidden within his own "Circus" as the British Intelligence agency is affectionately known. There's a mole, a double agent in the highest ranks and "Control" the head of the Circus is forced out after an operation goes horribly wrong. Although Smiley is sent packing with Control, he is soon recalled to find the mole by some worrying politicians. Smiley gets to pick his team, which consists of some reliable people, all well-played, and all willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get the job done. Smiley himself is a flawed individual, one willing to tolerate his wife's infidelity, his nation's scorn, his fellow spy-master's diatribes with hardly a ruffled feather. Smiley is brilliantly played by Gary Oldman. Oldman truly is incredible in this role, living up to my expectations developed from reading LeCarre's book of the same title. The movie stays as consistent as possible to the book, serving up the tedium of real spy work in huge stretches. No, this is not a James Bond thriller, but a rather a careful look at human frailty writ through the reality of the cold war. Enjoy this movie several times and keep it on the shelf.
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on January 11, 2017
This movie is not for everyone. If you're looking for James Bond, you will be sorely disappointed. But for those who might appreiate a richly directed and perfectly acted truer and realistic spy story, this movie is wonderful. Led by a wonderful and deeply nuanced performance by Gary Oldman, as John LeCarre's quintessential spy, George Smiley, and joined by a virtual Who's who of fine British actors, this has become one of my favorite movies. So much so that it is one of the few films I have purchased for my private collection. A true film essential.
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on February 4, 2014
This is arguably one of the best adaptions of a John le Carre spy mystery, filled with double agents, 'moles' , all sorts of plot twists and intrigues, that are hold you in great suspense to the end. The script and editing are outstanding, the cast is solid, especially Gary Oldman, and the suspenseful, ambiguous musical scoring by Alberto Iglesias is amazing.
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on April 6, 2012
It took a bit of courage to put up the money for this one. It isn't a bad film. Indeed it can be quite good but how do you follow Alec Guiness? And he enjoyed so much support! Alexander Knox played Control while Ian Richardson was the treacherous Bill Haydn. The BBC show kept you glued to the story for six hours. Gary Oldman's film was good. Alec Guiness was great! How do you give a fair evaluation? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy needed the time to tell. With TV you can take your time. You can't keep people in their seats that long. Still if you liked the movie buy the BBC Production. They will undoubtedly consider Gary Oldham for another film, Smiley's People. It's a much easier story which deals with the capture of Karla by George Smiley.It's another terrific story that begins with a puzzling and embarrassing murder. The only other story is A Murder of Quality. Denholm Elliott played Smiley and played opposite Joss Auckland and Glenda Jackson who drags Smiley into a murder case at an elite School. Focus should take its time before it considers Smiley's People. Like Tinker the BBC did a six hour series but you can shorten this story with a quicker pace but they should take their time. In the meantime hey should consider A Murder of Quality. Le Carre wrote the screenplay and it only runs for 90 minutes. It gives Gary Oldham an opportunity to win over the audience with his performance before they finish with Smiley's People.
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