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.
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?