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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film)

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Tomas Alfredson

Release date
December 30, 2011 (India)




Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Story by
John le Carre

United Kingdom France Germany

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie poster

Release date
5 September 2011 (2011-09-05) (Venice Film Festival) 16 September 2011 (2011-09-16) (United Kingdom)

Based on
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy  by John le Carre

Bridget OConnor (screenplay), Peter Straughan (screenplay), John le Carre (novel)

BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Adapted

Featured songs
La Mer, The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World

John Hurt
Gary Oldman
(George Smiley),
Kathy Burke
(Connie Sachs),
Benedict Cumberbatch
(Peter Guillam),
Colin Firth
(Bill Haydon),
Mark Strong
(Jim Prideaux)

Similar movies
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Bridge of Spies
Dr. No
Mission: Impossible

How do you find an enemy who is hidden right before your eyes?

Tinker tailor soldier spy official us trailer

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 Cold War espionage film directed by Tomas Alfredson. The screenplay was written by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, based on John le Carré's 1974 novel of the same name. The film, starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley, along with Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ciarán Hinds, and featuring David Dencik, is set in London in the early 1970s and follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie scenes

The film was produced through the British company Working Title Films and financed by France's StudioCanal. It premiered in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. It was a critical and commercial success, and was the highest-grossing film at the British box office for three consecutive weeks. It won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film. The film also received three Academy Awards nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and for Oldman, Best Actor.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie scenes

The novel had previously been adapted into the award-winning BBC TV miniseries Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979).

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie scenes

Tinker tailor soldier spy teaser trailer


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie scenes

In October 1973, "Control", head of British intelligence (referred to as "The Circus"), sends agent Jim Prideaux to Budapest to meet a Hungarian general wishing to defect. Prideaux is shot and presumed killed. Amidst the international incident that follows, Control and his right-hand man George Smiley are forced into retirement; Control dies of illness shortly after.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie scenes

Percy Alleline becomes the new Chief, Bill Haydon his deputy and Roy Bland and Toby Esterhase as lieutenants. Despite Control and Smiley's misgivings, their successors have already begun a secret operation—"Witchcraft"—to obtain highly sensitive information from the Soviet Union, which is in turn being traded with the CIA for American intelligence. Smiley is brought out of retirement by Cabinet Office civil servant Oliver Lacon to investigate a claim by Ricki Tarr, a British spy, that for years there has been a mole in a senior role in the Circus, as Control had suspected. Smiley chooses a trustworthy agent, Peter Guillam, and retired Special Branch officer Mendel to help him. He interviews former Circus analyst Connie Sachs, who was sacked by Alleline after deducing that Alexei Polyakov, a Soviet cultural attaché in London, was a spy.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie scenes

Tarr tells Smiley that on a mission to Istanbul, he had an affair with Irina, a Soviet agent. She wanted to reveal the name of a mole in the top ranks of the Circus but when Tarr reported this to London, they ignored him and ordered him straight home, while the Soviets promptly kidnapped Irina. Concluding that the mole had intercepted his message, Tarr went into hiding, suspected of defecting and murdering the British station chief. Smiley sends Guillam to steal the Circus logbook for the night Tarr had called and he finds the pages for that night have been cut out, supporting Tarr's story. Smiley interviews Prideaux, who reveals that after brutal interrogation, he was exchanged by the Soviets but sacked from the service. Prideaux says the purpose of the mission to Hungary was to get the name of the mole. Control had codenamed the suspects "Tinker" (Alleline), "Tailor" (Haydon), "Soldier" (Bland), "Poorman" (Esterhase) and "Beggarman" (Smiley).

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie scenes

Smiley learns that Alleline, Haydon, Bland and Esterhase have been meeting Polyakov—the "Witchcraft" source—at a safe house somewhere in London, where Polyakov gives them supposedly high-grade Soviet intelligence, in exchange for low-grade British material to help him maintain his cover with the Soviets. However, the mole is passing substantive material, including US intelligence, to Polyakov, his handler, whilst Polyakov's material has just enough substance to persuade the CIA to share information with the British. Smiley blackmails the location of the safe house out of Esterhase, whose exile status makes him vulnerable to deportation. Smiley then has Tarr appear at the Paris office, implying he knows who the mole is. The mole is revealed to be Haydon when he meets Polyakov at the safe house, where Smiley captures him. The Circus plans to exchange Haydon with the Soviets but he is killed by Prideaux, who felt betrayed by him in the Budapest incident. Smiley returns to the Circus as its new chief.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) movie scenes

The project was initiated by Peter Morgan when he wrote a draft of the screenplay, which he offered to Working Title Films to produce. Morgan dropped out as the writer for personal reasons but still served as an executive producer. Following Morgan's departure as writer, Working Title hired Peter Straughan and Bridget O'Connor to redraft the script. Park Chan-wook considered directing the film, but ultimately turned it down. Tomas Alfredson was confirmed to direct on 9 July 2009. The production is his first English language film. The film was backed financially by France's StudioCanal and had a budget corresponding to $21 million. The film is dedicated to O'Connor, who died of cancer during production.


The director cast Gary Oldman in the role of George Smiley, and described the actor as having "a great face" and "the quiet intensity and intelligence that's needed". Many actors were connected to the other roles at various points, but only days before filming started, Oldman was still the only lead actor who officially had been contracted. David Thewlis was in talks for a role early on. Michael Fassbender was in talks at one point to star as Ricki Tarr, but the shooting schedule conflicted with his work on X-Men: First Class; Tom Hardy was cast instead. On 17 September 2010, Mark Strong was confirmed to have joined the cast. Jared Harris was cast but had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; he was replaced by Toby Jones. John le Carré appears in a cameo as a guest in a party scene.


Principal photography took place between 7 October and 22 December 2010. Studio scenes were shot at a former army barracks in Mill Hill, North London. Blythe House in Kensington Olympia, West London, was used as the exterior for "The Circus." The interior hall of Budapest's Párizsi Udvar served as the location for the café scene, in which Jim Prideaux is shot. Empress Coach Works in Haggerston was used as the location for the Merlin safe house. Other scenes were filmed on Hampstead Heath and in Hampstead Ponds, where Smiley is shown swimming, and in the physics department of Imperial College London. The exterior shots of the Islay Hotel, a run-down hotel described in the film as being near Liverpool Street station, which Smiley uses as a base, were shot in Wilkin Street, London NW5.

The events which take place in Czechoslovakia in the novel were moved to Hungary, because of the country's 20% rebate for film productions. The teams filmed in Budapest for five days. Right before Christmas, the team also filmed in Istanbul for nine days. The production reunited Alfredson with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and editor Dino Jonsäter, with whom he had made his previous film Let the Right One In.


The film took six months to edit. The final song in the film, Julio Iglesias' rendition of the French song "La Mer", set against a visual montage of various characters and subplots being resolved as Smiley strides into Circus headquarters to assume command, was chosen because it was something the team thought George Smiley would listen to when he was alone; Alfredson described the song as "everything that the world of MI6 isn't". A scene where Smiley listens to the song was filmed, but eventually cut to avoid giving it too much significance.

Heard at a Circus office party, sung along to by the guests, is "The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World", composed by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, and performed by Sammy Davis, Jr., from the British spy spoof Licensed to Kill (1965). At the same office Christmas function, the Circus staff sing the official "State Anthem of the USSR", conducted by a figure dressed as Father Christmas but wearing a Lenin mask.


The film premiered in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival on 5 September 2011. StudioCanal UK distributed the film in the United Kingdom, where it was released on 16 September 2011. The US rights were acquired by Universal Pictures, which have a permanent first-look deal with Working Title, and they passed the rights to their subsidiary Focus Features. Focus planned to give the film a wide release in the United States on 9 December 2011 but pushed it to January 2012, when it was given an 800 screen release.

Critical response

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy received generally positive reviews. The film scored 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 211 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's summary called the film "a dense puzzle of anxiety, paranoia, and espionage that director Tomas Alfredson pieces together with utmost skill". Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating in the 0–100 range based on reviews from top mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 85 based on 42 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".

Jonathan Romney of The Independent wrote, "The script is a brilliant feat of condensation and restructuring: writers Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O'Connor realise the novel is overtly about information and its flow, and reshape its daunting complexity to highlight that". David Gritten of The Daily Telegraph declared the film "a triumph" and gave it a five star rating, as did his colleague, Sukhdev Sandhu. Stateside, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, "As Alfredson directs the expert script by Peter Straughan and Bridget O'Connor, the film emerges as a tale of loneliness and desperation among men who can never disclose their secret hearts, even to themselves. It's easily one of the year's best films." M. Enois Duarte of High-Def Digest also praised the film as a "brilliant display of drama, mystery and suspense, one which regards its audience with intelligence".

Detractors of the film included Peter Hitchens of The Mail on Sunday, who wrote that the plot would be too baffling for viewers who had not read the book, and that the film's makers had "needlessly messed it up". David Edwards of the Daily Mirror wrote, "The big question – and one le Carré himself asked when the film was announced – is whether such a hefty novel can fit comfortably into a feature-length production. In answering this, the writers have pared things back, meaning it's far pacier than the seven-part TV show. Unfortunately, the plot is every bit as bewildering with an overload of spy-speak, a few too many characters to keep track of and a final act that ends with a whimper, rather than a bang." The Telegraph's Guy Stagg, meanwhile, thought that the movie needed a car chase in the middle. Writing in The Atlantic, le Carré admirer James Parker favourably contrasted Smiley with the James Bond franchise but found this Tinker Tailor adaptation "problematic" compared to the 1979 BBC mini-series. He wrote: "To strip down or minimalize le Carré, however, is to sacrifice the almost Tolkienesque grain and depth of his created world: the decades-long backstory, the lingo, the arcana, the liturgical repetitions of names and functions".

Box office

The film topped the British box office chart for three consecutive weeks and earned $80,630,608 worldwide.

Possible sequel

While doing press for Working Title's Les Misérables film adaptation, producer Eric Fellner stated that fellow producer Tim Bevan was working with writer Straughan and director Alfredson on developing a sequel to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Fellner did not specify whether or not the sequel would be based on The Honourable Schoolboy or Smiley's People, the two remaining Smiley novels in Le Carré's Karla trilogy. While doing press for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014, Oldman stated that talk of a sequel, an adaptation of Smiley's People, had since disappeared; while also stressing that he would still like to see the film produced. However, in July 2016 Oldman confirmed that the sequel was in its early stages, stating, "There is a script, but I don't know when we will shoot."


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