Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Blu-ray Review)

John le Carré’s acclaimed spy novel has been re-adapted yet again, but now it comes to us in the form of a theatrical film starring the likes of Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), John Hurt (Immortals), Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises), Mark Strong (Rock N Rolla), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock). That’s a mighty fine cast brought together for a spy film like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This version of Tinker also has the distinction of being directed by one of the most unlikeliest of people, Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In). I do like when directors cross genres this early in their careers, but is it a misstep or does the transition from horror into drama do everyone involved justice? Let’s do this thing of ours.



Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the new spy film adapted from the novel of the same name which was written by John le Carré. The film directed by Tomas Alfredson features a stunning cast of actors playing a stunning cast of characters. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy takes place during he Cold War when governmental paranoia knew no bounds.

There’s a possible mole in British Intelligence that’s been leaking secrets and after a botched covert operation goes wrong, Control (John Hurt) orders George Smiley (Gary Oldman) to come back in from retirement to find the source of the leak and stop it. Here’s the thing…the mole is one of their own…as in one of the principals within the same organization Smiley works for. Then again, the mole never counted on George Smiley to handle the case.

I make slight jest in that last line, but not out of disrespect to the character. Far from it. George Smiley is intricately played by Gary Oldman and as we find out during the course of the film, Mr. Smiley is anything but flawless. His wife is cheating on him with someone in the company, he has awkward dealings with people that are not part of the British Intelligence communities, and is somewhat of a hermit. The twist comes when he actually goes to work on the case. Once he’s in “The Zone” all bets are off. He’s a brilliant investigator and a brilliant agent. Just watch him as he goes about his ways during the first 20 minutes of the film. In fact, he doesn’t say a word during the first 20 minutes of the film. It’s pretty cool.

The locations used during filming add an amazing amount of detail and depth to shine through the production. The Cold War is in full effect which adds a layer of the aforementioned paranoia to blanket the entire continent of Europe. Most characters introduced in the film operate normally within the parameters set forth by their occupation. The inner group of agents under Control’s direction are more than able chaps, but it ultimately comes  down to Smiley having to solve the entire puzzle single handed.

For those people that are expecting an action-filled-shoot-em-up-type-of-film I’d suggest to move on to the more easily accessible Bourne films. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not one of those films at all. In fact, Tinker is a bit of a “slow burn” film. It actually reminded me of The American with George Clooney. That film also got some backlash due to it not being a rapid-fire action film.

I missed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in theaters last year, but if I had seen it at the show it would have probably made my top-five list of films for 2011. Kudos to the Blu-ray then!


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is presented in a gorgeous 1080p, 2.35:1 anamorphic ratio. All of the little subtleties of the time period with regards to costume, location, and elemental detail are captured PERFECTLY on this Blu-ray! The film is a bit of a country-hopper in that it takes place in several locations other than England. Wherever the location, the environments looked spectacular, but on a very subdued level. Bring your overcoat, because it’s a bit nippy outside. The days look overcast and the nights ring cold. Flesh tones look natural and, black levels always stayed deep and inky, and contrast levels were never boosted. Sharpness was consistent, and I did not detect instances of aliasing or banding. The sepia tones are also captured marvelously. It’s a damn fine looking Blu-ray if I do say so myself.


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Tinker is a much “quieter” film than the normal spy-action-adventure-type of film, but that doesn’t mean a film like Tinker sounds any less dynamic. It does not. Dialogue is crystal-clear from the center channel, music travels through the rest of the channels in an almost smooth stream of audible tones. The rear channels handle the claustrophobic settings nicely. This is one of those Blu-rays that you would not want to be caught in a cold dark alley with. It’s a very accurate sonic experience that deserves your full attention.


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has few extras of worth in some interviews with the cast and author John le Carre himself. The interviews are pretty straight forward and of the non-kiss ass type. My favorite of the supplemental features is the interview with John le Carré himself. He’s very warm and candid, although I would have preferred that the volume on the interviewer’s voice be a tad higher, because I found myself raising the volume to hear the interviewer; the questions are asked off-screen. Deleted scenes, audio commentary with Gary Oldman and Director Tomas Alfredson, and a short featurette are also included. It’s an above average helping of special features.


  • Audio Commentary with Gary Oldman and Tomas Alfredson
  • Interviews with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Author John le Carré, and Director Tomas Alfredson & Co-screenwriter Peter Straughan
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: First Look (featurette)


No, there are no fancy shootouts, car chases, explosions, or martial arts anywhere in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the sooner folks realize this the better informed they will be and may actually enjoy the film for what it has to offer. Story. Plot. Exposition. You get the idea. Great performances, great production, and great direction elevate Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy to being one of the better spy films of the last few years. I do hope that  the other, what is it, FOUR novels featuring George Smiley are produced in the future. Yes, there’s more!




Order Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on Blu-ray!



Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

4 Responses to “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    See I hear what you are saying and I agree with you For the most part with everything except The American comment. I actually liked that film and it didn’t bore the hell out of me like this film did. The cast is stupendous here. Just make sure you have coffee and are wide eyed awake when viewing. Make no mistakes, Gerard doesn’t sugarcoat the lack of action here.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    I thought the opposite. I was enthralled by the film. I saw it in theaters and then the Blu-ray and it was a powerhouse then and it’s a powerhouse of a film now. IMO.

  3. Gregg

    This was a terrible experience. This movie was so painfully slow that I finally gave up 2/3 of the way through it…and I never quit on a film. It certainly didn’t suffer from bad acting, but it plodded along ever so deliberately that I finally threw in the towel. I wasn’t looking for action, just something to keep my attention span afloat. There’s a good movie in there somewhere. I just think it’s very well hidden.

  4. Brian White

    That’s the “Spy” in the movie title, Gregg. He’s very clever at hiding the good movie to be found here.