Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Review

Gary Oldman in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Gary Oldman in 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' - Photo Credit: Focus Features
Reviewed by Ian Forbes, SoberingConclusion

The national average price of a movie ticket is just a touch higher than $8. Those of us in bigger cities might think that’s a bargain, but remember it’s a national average. Whether or not you want to spend that amount on the latest adaptation of author John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is completely up to you. For the same price, one can pick up a pack of sleeping pills, should you find a night of restful sleep elusive, and I would hope your bed is far more comfortable than a theater seat.

Have I said too much already? Meh.

I mentioned this is the latest adaptation. In 1979, the novel was initially adapted for the screen, with Alec Guinness starring as a spy attempting to uncover a mole inside the British Intelligence Service during the early 70s when the Cold War was in full swing. While I haven’t seen it, one can only hope it does a better job of avoiding the listlessness of this year’s version.

It’s a shame really. Director Tomas Alfredson helmed one of 2008’s best films, Let the Right One In – which ironically was then remade shortly thereafter with far greater success (critically at least). And Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy boasts an absolutely top notch cast: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Ciarán Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, etc. Where then did it all go wrong?

It comes down to the energy level, which on a scale of 1 to 10, is somewhere between a 4 and a negative 23. Calling this film a thriller is like calling Titanic a documentary (or good). The film moves backwards and forwards to try and add layers to the quest to find the mole, and perhaps in an attempt to create interest. None of that worked, however, and all that audiences will be left with is a 2-hour plus prescription for curing sleep disorders.

I could try to come up with more to say but what needed to happen was a complete overhaul or stop to the project. Surely, someone watching the dailies could see that it’s not simply enough to trot excellent actors up on-screen, they actually need something to do (though performance wise they all do fine). More likely, no one was watching the dailies and the result is now in the can.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy should have remained a Cold War relic and is lucky it boasted the cast that it did. Only the most hardcore fans of the author, or especially troubled masochists, need find the time to sit and watch this utter bore of a film. It’s a lot cheaper to curl up under the covers … and definitely more useful.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy hits theaters on December 23, 2011 and is rated R for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language.