Movie Look: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Short Summary: When a mole infiltrates the highest level of M16, an aging veteran must come out of retirement in order to unmask him.

Whilst you don’t have to like it, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s status in the movie world matches Madoka’s status in the anime world in that it’s one of the most important entries within their respective mediums in years and you should be required to watch it at least once because of how they redefined a certain genre. Hell, they even came out in the same year. In Tinker Tailor’s case, it’s redefining the political spy thriller. And oh boy is this film ripe for all kinds of analysis, both good and bad – none of which I’ll do here because this is just a short look at the film.

First thing’s first, the characters and overall tone of this movie are very cold in a similar vein to this anime season’s own attempt at the genre, Zankyou no Terror. The entire story is told through self-serious dialogue and silent scenes with the occasional violence thrown in, and everything from the directing to the characters’ actions are extremely calculated. This is not a film for people who want a casual watch. In fact, it’s a little too cold for me at times, which is why I only consider it really really good rather than an all-time favorite. Considering I can deal with that sort of thing better than most people, that’s saying a lot.

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And trust me, Tinker Tailor is really good. If you have no problem buying into the tone of stuff like Mouryou no Hako or Ghost in the Shell, you’ll probably have a blast watching this film. The reveal of who the mole is is great on its own, and realizing the clues that were left behind that indicated said reveal is also a treat. But more than anything, it’s the journey that Gary Oldman’s Smiley character goes on in order to discover the truth whilst interacting with an all-star cast (the movie has freaking John Hurt) that truly makes this film special. I have never seen such an amazingly cohesive mixture of fear, tension, and espionage that stayed strong from beginning to end like Tinker Tailor’s in a long-time. Maybe ever? I haven’t seen The Manchurian Candidate yet, and I can’t think of many other political thrillers I’ve seen, let alone enjoyed, at the top of my head. I love Eden of the East and Un-Go, but they weren’t exactly on top of their game through 100% of their runtime the way this film was.

Its density may make the movie hard to get into. But if you can, you’ll be treated to an amazingly gripping tale with an ending so perfect that I burst out laughing when it happened. What do I mean by that? You’ll just have to watch the film and see for yourself now, won’t you?

2 responses to “Movie Look: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

  1. This was a good write up here of this film flawfinder and it encouraged me to rewatch the film. Its the example of a mystery film with some great second viewing potential and that also applies to as you said “seeing the clues”. I too laughed at the end. I had a bit of a hard time getting into Oldman in the lead role at first because I am familiar with the original adaptation. Since you liked this film I’d really recommend tacking down the 70s version, its alot longer yes but the story is even better acted, it feels all the more British and has more breathing room to develop. If your interested theres also follow ups to that version called smiley’s people and also a murder of quality.
    What did you think of Most wanted man the second time round? Theres another Le Carre adaptation called the constant gardener which is a great little thriller also worth a look if you’ve got the time.
    =< Sorry for posting on such an old post like this.

  2. I see you also mention un-go, that one was a strong mystery series but the pace was a little too rushed, the ova I think was the best of it. Eden of the east I was enjoying up until the movies came out and I found myself expecting/wanting more, the films ended up lowering my opinion of the tv show.
    Ah mouryou no hako and ghost in the shell that must be why I went for tinker tailor so much, both are shows I swear by.