|Written by Alan Paterson|
published 3rd February 2012
Supplied for review by
John Le Carre has always written very ‘serious’ spy novels. By that I mean that they were very cold, clinical and did not exude the gloss and glamour of the world of espionage popularly portrayed by other writers. His heroes never had the latest set of gadgets from ‘Q’ Branch, nor did they perform near impossible physical feats to overcome the villains of the piece. This was the case in the books and it was carried forward with the 1979 BBC adaptation of ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ when Sir Alec Guiness made the role of spymaster George Smiley his own.
It should come as no great surprise then, that the very recent movie version of ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, (now out on UK Region B locked Blu-ray) should be any different. If it had been, the legions of Le Carre fans would have been very disappointed. Directed by Tomas Alfredson (‘Let the Right One In’), it boasts a superb cast including Gary Oldman (as Smiley),...[Read the complete movie review]
‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ comes to UK Region B locked Blu-ray with an interesting 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
I use the term ‘interesting’ to describe the picture as some may feel that the image quality does not befit a recently made movie on the High Def format.
Realistically though, the transfer communicates the director’s intent. The look of the piece includes significant film grain, which is noticeable throughout – because that’s what the director wanted. The colour palette is limited and everything looks pale, dull and grey. There are no strong, vibrant primaries to behold. There are also no Hollywood tans here, just good old realistic British skin tones.
The image is sharp enough, but just not quite bitingly so. Contrast is healthy enough and we do get deep blacks in the night scenes. While this may well be what the director intended, it isn’t very pretty – and it fits the story perfectly. It’s an unattractive view of the world of espionage – stripped of the gloss and glamour of the Bond movies.
Picture score : 8
The audio on ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ comes in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround flavour and, like the movie itself, it’s very subtle. The dialogue upon which the whole movie hinges is clear as a bell and it doesn’t attempt to be gimmicky by being directional. The director wanted everyone’s attention to be on the screen, so most of the speech is locked to front centre. The rather restrained, delicate score by Alberto Iglesias comes from the main stereo pair but it never soars – as that would be incongruous. The surrounds are almost imperceptibly used for ambient effects but this could never be described as an immersive mix. It wants to keep the audience detached. There is some use of bass in the atmospheric sense, but it never strays into the realms of a ‘blockbuster’ movie soundtrack. What we have here is a very carefully thought out sound mix that excels in fitting in with the rather drab visuals to create an experience of the rather seedy world of the spy.
Sound score : 8
The version reviewed was the UK Region B locked Double Play package which includes a Blu-ray and DVD of the movie. The bonus features are as follows:
Commentary - Director Tomas Alfredson and star Gary Oldman get together to give us a rather stilted commentary track that has a rather soporific effect on the listener. Oldman points out what he admired in the performances of the other cast members. Alfredson lets us in on some of the decisions and choices he made during the production. It’s a very thoughtful conversation, though perhaps not the most riveting.
Smiley (HD, 2 mins 24s) - The director, cast and John Le Carre describe the character of George Smiley. Apparently he’s cool.
Inside the Circus (HD, 2mins 9 s) - John Le Carre explains all about ‘The Circus’ and ‘Control’ from real life while the cast join in with their views on the characters.
Shadow World (HD, 2 mins 14s) - Gary Oldman and the cast express their respect for the director as well as give us their take on the story.
John Le Carre (HD, 2 mins 20s) - The director and cast tell us of their experience of the writer, while Le Carre talks about the character of Smiley and his experience working in the world of espionage.
Gary Oldman (HD, 7 mins 35s) - The actor talks about the book and the TV series, his motivation for wanting to do the film, the character of Smiley among other things in this interview divided up by title cards.
Colin Firth (HD, 6 mins 28s) - The thinking woman’s crumpet talks about the book, Le Carre’s writing and how difficult it is to make a film of such a detailed book.
Tom Hardy (HD, 3mins 22 s) - The actor reveals that he’d never read the book, how much he liked the script and what it was like to work with such a well known cast.
Director Tomas Alfredson & Writer Peter Straughan (HD, 6 mins 56s) - The two perform a double act here and reveal that they’re not really spy novel readers, but it was the relations between the characters that made it interesting for them. They discuss the TV series and the writer admits to nervousness on approaching the script. Alfredson describes what it was like to work with a great cast.
John Le Carre Interview (HD, 30 mins) - Le Carre tells us of his involvement in the real spy world, post Kim Philby and George Blake, of the paranoia that existed amid the witch hunts. This is a marvellous insight into his world. It’s an unfinished interview, with no presenter to camera or proper voice over – just a disembodied voice ‘on set’ asking the questions.
Other Bonus Features
Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 mins 43s) - The deleted scenes include Smiley cooking, evidence of his wife's adultery, a swimming segment and a very uneasy lunchtime pint involving Guillam and Bland.
UK Premiere Featurette (HD, 4 mins 47s) - The usual suspects interviewed on the red carpet before the UK premiere. It’s a bit of puff.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Sky Movies Special (HD, 20 mins) - The interviews that we’ve already seen are used together with movie clips to produce a PR promo that was shown on Sky.
Photo Gallery - A fine collection of production stills showing most of the characters.
Audio Books - Michael Jayston – he of the melifluous voice - reads Chapter 1 of ‘The Honourable Schoolboy’ (Audio only 54 mins) and Chapter 1 of ‘Smiley’s People’ (Audio only 55 mins)
Trailers (HD, total 3 mins 30s) - We get the Teaser as well as the full Theatrical trailer and they hint at more action than the movie held.
Extras score : 7
‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ sneaks on to UK Region B locked Blu-ray with an interesting 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image is dull, grey and grainy while remaining sharp – just as the director intended.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track ensures we get crisp, clear dialogue throughout and a very subtle blend of music and effects to fit in with the visuals.
The bonus features comprise, amongst other things, a collection of mini featurettes and interviews with the cast while the most interesting is with author John Le Carre. A commentary track from director Tomas Alfredson and star Gary Oldman round off the package.
As a movie, it’s a superbly crafted adaptation of the book that manages to cram a lot of detail into a two hour run time. Spymaster George Smiley is pulled out of retirement to track down a mole at the top of the British Secret Service. Gary Oldman delivers a performance that is a study of intense intellect backed up by a strong cast including John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ciaran Hinds. This is a thinking person’s spy movie.
Overall score : 8
1,344 word review written by Alan Paterson.
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