Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

DRAMA; 2hr 2min

STARRING: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, David Dencik

Inside knowledge: Oldman

Holy plot points! English author John le Carré is a practised weaver of espionage webs, and Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson’s film of le Carré’s 1974 Cold War novel is a right (and left) brain teaser. The central character is senior agent George Smiley (Oldman) of the British Secret Intelligence Service, aka M16, aka the Circus. As opaque as a pair of wellies and uncommonly clever besides, he is corralled from forced retirement to root out a suspected top-ranking Russian mole within the Circus ranks.


Smiley is the sort to walk softly with a big investigative stick, which comes in handy for beating his way through the rat’s nest he uncovers. This is not the flash espionage of 007: the MI6 agents under suspicion (Firth, Hinds, Jones and Dencik) are low key to dowdy with their drab suits and cups of tea, but the seams of corruption are corroded and deep. A tautly controlled Oldman captures the power of the unspoken, and Alfredson the artful craft of the layered slow build. Like the stealthiest of quiet achievers, they and their peerless supporting cast cover a stunning amount of dangerous ground.