Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 17-May-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman
Deleted Scenes
Interviews-Crew-John Le Carre
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 127:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tomas Alfredson

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Mark Strong
John Hurt
Zoltán Mucsi
Péter Kálloy Molnár
Ilona Kassai
Imre Csuja
Gary Oldman
Toby Jones
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Alberto Iglesias

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a classic British spy story. In the 1974 novel by John Le Carre on which the film is based, gone were the sexy and glamorous exploits of James Bond. The spies in the novel were decidedly unsexy bureaucrats working in dimly lit offices in rainy London.

     As well as being a defining book Tinker Tailor became part of an identifiable genre of 1970s spy books and films. Put The Day of the Jackal, The Kremlin Letter and The Odessa File into this category. Often hopelessly convoluted, they were the sort of films which had you whispering to your partner in the movies "What's going on?".

     This is the second time that Tinker Tailor has been filmed. The first, very memorably, was in 1979. That was a 7 part BBC miniseries featuring Alec Guinness as George Smiley, the lead character. As a miniseries it was able to delve into the minutiae of the complex and multifaceted book. This recent film adaptation captures the essence of the novel although true fans of the spy novel will probably find it a little lacking in detail.

     Describing the plot of Tinker Tailor is an impossible task. When we meet our "hero" George Smiley (Gary Oldman) he is an ageing intelligence officer in the inner circle of The Circus, the codename for MI6. It is 1973 and the Cold War is in full flight. A spy (Mark Strong) has been sent to Budapest to meet with a possible defector. It is a crucial lead. Apparently the defector has something very important - the name of a mole in the Circus. The operation goes badly and the spy is shot leading to a shudder whenever anyone in the know talks about "what happened in Budapest". To them it is anathema. A very public disaster for a very private organisation.

     A year later and the head of the Circus, Control (John Hurt) is retiring. Smiley is also bundled out the door. They are the representatives of the old guard from an era when Britain ruled the world and ruled the spy world. An era before the Americans came onto the scene. Before too long, Smiley is brought back into the fold to help with an important mission. Now more than ever it is apparent that there is a mole in the Circus at the upper echelons of British spydom and Smiley is the perfect person to investigate.

     So begins his path of investigations and reminiscences. As said, this is not a film about busty swimsuit models in Jamaica. Smiley works in the gloom, poring over documents for secret clues. That is, of course, the joy for fans of this genre. Every look has a double meaning. Can this person be trusted? Is everything a giant conspiracy?.

     It was a smart move bringing in Scandinavian director Tomas Alfredson to make the film. The work for which he became justly famous, Let the Right One In , was a dark and gloomy vampire love story. He brings the same grim mood to this film. The script brilliantly captures the style of the novel although those who like their films neat and tidy will be driven to distraction. Confusion reigns in this film such that even cast member Colin Firth still doesn't know exactly what was going on!

     The performances are uniformly good. Gary Oldman delivers his most intuitive and restrained performance to date as the clever and enigmatic Smiley. He points out in the commentary track that it is over 16 minutes into the film before he says a word. There is a host of British talent also involved from John Hurt to Ciaran Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch to Tom Hardy, Colin Firth to Toby Jones.

     The gloomy atmospherics do not make for an entertaining film in the traditional sense. It is a decidedly cool experience. Nevertheless this is an enjoyable spy story that demands several viewings in order to put the complex story together.

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Transfer Quality


     Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was shot on 35mm film and projected at the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for this Blu-ray release.

     Director Alfredson used the same cinematographer from Let the Right One In, Hoyte van Hoytema, to shoot the film. He brings a dim, gloomy atmospheric to the movie. As a consequence whilst this is an excellent transfer it is certainly not one to show off the magic of high-definition. The film is intentionally stripped of colour from the clothing of the spies to the dull building colours and street scenes and the post-war looking interiors of the Circus.

     The light throughout is dim and diffused. This creates an image which is intentionally soft and without the sharpness of a James Bond spy movie. There is an intentional higher level of grain making it look for all the world like a 70s film.

     The flesh tones are accurate and the level of detail from high-definition can be found in the lines on the faces and close-ups.

     There are subtitles burned into the print for the foreign language scenes. Otherwise there are subtitles in English.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy carries as its soundtrack an English DTS HD Master Audio track. There is also a DTS Digital Surround track and a plain old Dolby Digital 2.0 track for the commentary.

     The sound is excellent throughout. The dialogue is clear and mostly easy to understand although being a spy movie there are a lot of whispered conversations.

     Although the film doesn't really feature a lot in the way of surround activity there is a pleasing ambience offered by the track. The main benefit is in the Oscar nominated score, by Alberto Iglesias, which winds its sinuous way through the listener, with jazzy themes fitting the period.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     There are a few extras

Commentary Track : Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman

     The commentary track is an amiable affair. Neither Oldman nor Alfredson are particularly garrulous. Alfredson mentions that the track is necessary because the film is "too complicated to see without it"! Nevertheless, for the patient there are considerable rewards. Oldman describes his experiences on the film and, amazingly, points out that this was the first time that he and John Hurt had ever met, let alone worked together (I guess they didn't cross paths on Harry Potter).

Interview : John Le Carre

     The interview with John Le Carre is lengthy and will be appreciated by fans of the famous spy novelist. He talks about his own experiences in the world of spydom and how it inflected the book and brought a sense of realism to a genre that had been more about girls, guns and garrotting.

Deleted Scenes

     A short selection of deleted scenes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Blu-ray versions of this film from other Regions are identical in terms of the film but both have extra features over our Region release.

US Region A

UK Region B

Featurettes: Interviews: Other Bonus Features


     Whether you like Tinker, Tailor depends upon a couple of things. Firstly, whether you have some nostalgia for the "good old days" of Cold War paranoia movies. Secondly, whether you have the patience to absorb the minimalist acting and convoluted plotting.

     The Blu-ray is true to the cinematic look of the film and the extras are interesting though lacking by comparison with the overseas releases.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, August 03, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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