Last Friday, I watched the trailer for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and thought, “This is a movie I have to see.” I read the book as a teenager and was hooked enough to read more George Smiley novels. I’ve always loved spy stories—anything from thrillers to spoofs. No surprise there. When my husband came home from work and said there was a movie he wanted to see—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I thought “woohoo!”
We wanted to see the same movie? How often does that happen? Hardly ever, let me tell you. So it was off to the movies with us. And we weren’t disappointed.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a quiet spy movie. If you’re expecting James Bond action, you may be disappointed. It’s what I call a thinking movie—you have to pay attention and think while you watch it. There’s always a lot going on, but it’s often subtle. In all the quiet talk, valuable information is being revealed. It’s filled with numerous characters to keep track of, flashbacks, and twists.
This is a spy movie. Men who lie for a living and kill when necessary don’t always use polite language. There’s violence, naturally. It’s artistically done well, but it can still be disturbing. And there’s a bit of nudity, though in typical British fashion, it isn’t played up. For example, there’s a scene in a bar. The focus is on the main characters, but in the background in soft focus, there’s a topless woman. The movie definitely deserves its R rating.
Now in his eighties, the author, John le Carre, was an executive producer on the film. He once said, “Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.” I wonder if he still feels that way, lol. I thought the film was much better than a bouillon cube. I’d say compared to the book it’s more like a fine steak.
John le Carre was a secret agent before he became a novelist. The high concept and plot of the movie—there’s a mole in the highest level of British intelligence—was loosely based on le Carre’s betrayal by notorious British traitor, Kim Philby. According to my Spies and Secret Agents Knowledge Cards, yes I am a bit of a spy things geek, Philby was educated at Cambridge during the Great Depression. Five of the university’s students of the era later worked in the highest levels of British Intelligence and diplomatic corps while working for the Soviets. When Philby defected in 1963, he blew the covers of many British agents, including le Carre’s.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has an impressive cast of British actors. It evokes the feeling of the Cold War Era well. And for those of us, like me, who have a romantic streak in them, the movie has a surprisingly poignant and romantic ending. Which made the movie for me. I give it a big thumbs-up and highly recommend it.