Despite having one of the most ridiculous names in cinematic history, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is actually an excellent film. Set in the early 70s, British espionage is in a state of crisis. An operation in Hungary has gone wrong and Control (John Hurt), dying head of intelligence agency The Circus, has been forced out, taking his deputy Smiley (Gary Oldman) with him. With Cold war tensions with the Soviet Union at their absolute peak and suspicions of a mole operating at the highest levels of The Circus, the board is set for a suspenseful thriller. Smiley is called back to put together a secret team to uncover which one of the four men at the head of The Circus is acting as a mole for the Russians.
Unlike the current stock of thrillers in cinematic society today, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which I will shorten to TTSS for convenience, doesn’t need to have overblown gun fights to have you on the edge of your seat. This is the major reason as to why TTSS is so enjoyable.
The intense complexity and intelligence of this film ensures that the viewer’s intelligence isn’t insulted, which is a big step up from the current stock of thriller films. The characterisation in this film is quite superb as the depths of human deceit and cunning are explored in some memorable performances, especially from Oldman and Colin Firth. A well-chosen cast and witty writing covers the fundamentals of a good thriller and TTSS takes it all on from there.
To be honest, there was a few niggles and a few patchworks here and there, but they were quite easy to happily ignore as you watched the rest of the film. Depicted with a form of intelligent storytelling, TTSS reminds us once again that dramas can be compelling and stunning without a cascade of explosions.