DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy (2012)

Oldman’s performance as Smiley effortlessly captures the sadness always below the surface of Le Carre’s most famous creation.

Published on April 19, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy (2012)

Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kathy Burke, John Hurt
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment 61120849 (2 Discs)
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Video: 2:35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish or French DTS Surround 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Feature Commentary with Director Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: First Look, Deleted Scenes, Interviews with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Author John Le Carre and Tomas Alfredson
Length: 128 minutes
Rating: ****

Condensing John Le Carre’s classic 400-page British spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy down to a two hour movie must have been a difficult task for screenwriters Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan and director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), but they’ve mostly succeeded. The film and the book it was adapted from concerns the efforts of retired secret agent George Smiley (played by Gary Oldman) to find a Russian spy amongst a group of high-ranking intelligence agents, all of whom have secrets to hide.

The movie is full of information and requires a very keen eye for detail and dialogue, but any viewer of the Blu-Ray or DVD will be helped immeasurably by turning on the subtitles. The ability to read every little snatch of dialogue and to know the names of each character speaking helps considerably in unlocking the film’s quite complicated plot. The film’s dominant mood is dark and paranoid, with nearly every character, including Smiley, seeming suspicious at one point or another.

The film’s Blu-Ray transfer reveals the many shades of grey, brown, and red that Alfredson and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema have captured in their recreation of Cold War London. The film’s sound design is in many ways its secret weapon, with commonplace noises, like the rumble of a subway or the crisp sound of footsteps, creating tension in scenes that on the surface don’t seem that tense. The feature commentary by Alfredson and Oldman is a little subdued, but Oldman is great at pointing out tiny details in the film that are easy for even the most attentive viewer to miss.

Having never read the book the film is based on, I can’t address issues of adaptation, but with the aid of the subtitles, I feel reasonably confident that I understood the film’s plot. One criticism I think is valid is that condensing the book’s lengthy story into two hours seems to rob the revelation of the “mole” of some of its power. Overall, the film is quite entertaining and Oldman’s performance as Smiley effortlessly captures the sadness always below the surface of Le Carre’s most famous creation.

—Daniel Krow




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