Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Ah  John Le Carre. Safe to say, I'm a fan. I love his work. I love the novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I love the TV series from the 1970s, I love the character of George Smiley. So I was rather excited to see the big screen adaptation at the cinema last year. 

I enjoyed it, but I felt a little let down. It was too hard to not compare it with the book or, more tellingly the series. Where it triumphed was the great dreary 70s period setting and look-it is an exquisitely designed production, and the great  British cast Swedish director Tomas Alfredson put together.

Watching it again today - I'm a completist, I couldn't resist the DVD - I'm pleased to say I can now appreciate it on its own merit.

If you haven't come across Smiley before, I urge you to watch it. If you have, I urge you to watch it too, but with an open mind. And maybe watch it again.



  1. Yes, I had to watch it twice to really appreciate it..Cumberbatch was good in it; the absolute spit of his mum ( Wanda Ventham; Col. Lake in U.F.O ).
    What a looker she was. The Lotus Eaters was good too, with The Mighty Ian Hendry.

  2. My only complaint was in relation to turning Cumberbatch's Peter gay. That sounds homophobic, which I assure you I'm not, it's just I didn't see the point in changing that aspect of the character.

  3. You're right; it was pointless. But still, the film survived the meddling. Just about, mind.

  4. Like Bungoid, it took me two viewings to really appreciate it... well, actually two viewings plus some much needed catch-up with the Alec Guinness version. After that, I found that I could simply sit back and enjoy the acting, the visuals and the assured direction without constantly trying to figure out what was going on.

    The change to Guillam's sexuality is an odd one and one that is going to create major problems if they decide to adapt THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY or SMILEY'S PEOPLE (and I'd love to see them tackle both with this cast and director). I can sort of understand why they did it, though. On the one hand, it fits in perfectly with this notion of secret lives, acting a persona and all not being what it seems - all theme that TINKER TAILOR revels in. Secondly, it rather deftly allows the filmmakers to sidestep any potential accusations of homophobia in relation to **SPOILER** Haydon and Prideaux's barely concealed relationship. **END SPOILER**

    1. See with regards to the spoiler I felt they'd already done the secret lives metaphor. Adding this just felt superfluous and a little, dare I day it, bizarre.

      I have always wanted to see THS get adapted. Its a notoriously difficult book but one worth sticking with and I just know it would look brilliant on screen with a good budget. Sadly it seems jinxed. The BBC passed on it due to it being too costly and it seems Studio Canal/Working Title aren't keen either...fearing less Smiley will turn audiences off. Of course there would be another potential tricky problem too, in that the Westerby in this version of TTSS was a composite of both the book's Westerby and Collins and it might be a big ask trying to shape him as the 'hero' of THS now.

      That said, Stephen Graham is always worth watching.

      Smiley's People seems on the cards as a sequel. And Anton Corbijn is keen to adapt A Most Wanted Man with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

    2. Hmm yeah, I know what you mean, though I think it was quite effective to show that it wasn't just the "baddies" (in so far as Le Carre's writing ever has goodies and baddies) who felt compelled to act a certain persona.

      Nice to hear that SMILEY'S PEOPLE is on the table. I just finished watching the excellent Guinness version - for me, that final scene at the bridge between Smiley and Karla sums up everything that makes the series great - the moral uncertainty, the hollowness of Smiley's supposed "victory", the feeling of compromising oneself to get the job done.

    3. It's a great series isn't it? Leads to the inevitable question; who is the best Peter Guillam? Michael Jayston, Michael Byrne or Benedict Cumberbatch?
      I love how, retired from The Circus, Toby loses all his stuffy Englander affectations and finds his true self again!