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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Review

Updated on January 7, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - the Book

John le Carré authored Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as part of a trilogy. Published in 1974, the book is not the first adventure of George Smiley, the principal character. All told, le Carré wrote seven books involving Smiley as the central character.Tinker Tailor is actually the 5th book, but it is the first in the Karla Trilogy. Perhaps more of the series are in the planning process.

Use of Shadows Overkill

While the story line kept me intrigued, the use of dark shadows was more than off-putting. A cinematic technique should augment the experience of the film. It seems that Tomas Alfredson, the director, wanted to remind us of the grunginess of the old 70's cigarette culture.

A visit to the flat of Control in the opening scenes reveals a kind of inhabited smoking room. Prideaux enters Control's lair to receive (unbeknownst to him) his last orders- use his Hungarian identity to travel to eastern Europe and facilitate the defection of a Hungarian general. The general, Control tells him, has "treasure", valuable information.

Camera shots of the halls and rooms of "the Circus", the headquarters building of MI6, show elements semi-coated in soot. A heavy feeling comes out of the screen and permeates into the viewer.

In the final scene, the characters who have overcome, outsmarted Karla, and found the mole, are shown walking in a clean, fully lit hall of MI6. They also wear more modern, crisp suits. It seems Alfredson wanted to convey the idea of a general, uncentered darkness permeating the Circus. In the end, the viewer can conclude this darkness flowed out of the awareness of many that a mole operated within the highest echelons of the Circus.

Wife Didn't Like it. I did.

My wife grew up under communist rule. I know a lot of Russian, Ukrainians, White Russians (Byelorussians), Moldovans, Latvians, et al. One thing they all share: a paranoia of intelligence agents.

I once attended a prayer meeting at the home of a Byelorussian pastor. As we sat, the others conversed in Russian. At some point, I noticed Yuriy making the outline of a square object with his hands. "What is the word for...", he began to ask a sentence I knew. I regularly asked my wife for a word for something in Russian. "a small house", he continued. I knew that word, too. "for chickens". I knew that word, too! No one could remember the word. Several people were adding to the word search, but others concluded with "Nyet, nyet." I suddenly remembered the word from my "My First 1,000 Words in Russian" picture book. "Kooryatnik!" I yelled out, pleased with myself. But, they all stared at me until Yuriy asked, "How do you know this word?"

For weeks after that, rumors filtered back to me about conversations that maybe I was a spy sent to infiltrate the church and see what they are up to. (In communism, the KGB really did infiltrate churches. Many thousands were tortured and sent to gulags because they were Christians. Owning a Bible was illegal.)

So, the convolutions of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy were peurile to my wife. She thought the overall plot was not very intricate at all. The plot in Tinker Tailor, after all, is just a two-tier subterfuge. That is a basic, novice deception for a Russian spy.

I, however, enjoyed the slow reveal of details and the pondering of the facts and their implications as to who was involved. The director, however, concluded the meaning of much of the information within a short time following the reveal. So, this favorite aspect of spy movie lovers was somewhat short-lived.

I did enjoy the movie. It can also be a good watch at home. The dark, shadowy filming technique greatly reduces the bigger than life feel of in-theater movie watching.

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    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 6 years ago from Taos, NM

      Another good movie review and I enjoyed the personal information about your wife and Russian friends. Their perspective on the movie is interesting too. This is another one I want to see.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for this excellent review of "Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy." I haven't seen the film but I was intrigued by the trailers for it. So, I was glad to see this Hub. Well done!