2011, Movies

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011, Tomas Alfredson)

For a while I have wanted to watch first the original version of this and then this remake. However, I lost my American netflix awhile ago and haven’t yet got it back. And I stupidly gave in and watched the remake first. I say ‘stupidly’ because this is an idiosyncratic thriller and I may have appreciated one or both better seeing a more conventional approach first. (But, then again, maybe not.)

I love the slow burn of this – so little is revealed in the film so slowly. I can imagine how confused and infuriated many people must be while watching this. For much of the first half it feels like one should have read the book first. I personally love that approach, though I too was confused, albeit briefly, as to whether a certain thing was happening in the past or present.

But at times the direction is a little too idiosyncratic, particularly in the montages, which don’t work as well as the rest of the film. The first montage doesn’t exactly make sense if you think about it – at east from Smiley’s perspective – and the second feels out of character with much of the film.

But otherwise this is a very solid, traditional spy thriller with a very deliberate pace.


  • Directed by Tomas Alfredson
  • Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo
  • Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan, Based on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré
  • Starring
    • Gary Oldman as George Smiley (“Beggarman”)
    • Colin Firth as Bill Haydon (“Tailor”)
    • Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr
    • Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux
    • Ciarán Hinds as Roy Bland (“Soldier”)
    • Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam
    • David Dencik as Toby Esterhase (“Poorman”)
    • Stephen Graham as Jerry Westerby
    • Simon McBurney as Oliver Lacon
    • Toby Jones as Percy Alleline (“Tinker”)
    • John Hurt as Control
    • Kathy Burke as Connie Sachs
    • Roger Lloyd-Pack as Mendel
    • Svetlana Khodchenkova as Irina
    • Arthur Nightingale as Bryant
    • John le Carré as Christmas party guest
    • Christian McKay as Mackelvore
    • Konstantin Khabensky as Polyakov
    • Linda Marlowe as Mrs McCraig
    • Michael Sarne as Karla
    • Tomasz Kowalski as Boris
    • Stuart Graham as Minister
    • Zoltán Mucsi as Hungarian agent
    • Laura Carmichael as Sal
  • Music by Alberto Iglesias
  • Cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema
  • Edited by Dino Jonsäter
  • Production companies: StudioCanal, Karla Films, Paradis Films, Kinowelt Filmproduktion, Working Title Films
  • Distributed by Focus Features
  • Release date: 5 September 2011
  • Running time: 127 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom, France, Germany
  • Language: English
  • Budget: $21 million
  • Box office: $80.6 million

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