This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Having begun yesterday evening with "Part One" and promptly gone to bed, I naturally reawakened in the middle of the night and decided to resume - and ultimately finish - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
"Part Two" tells us of Ricky Tarr's relationship with Irina. We want to see them escape from their miserable world but we know they don't. That entire portion of the episode could stand on its own as piece of short fiction, really. The highlight of "Part Three" is Peter Guillame's "burgling" of files at The Circus, perhaps the most Mission: Impossible-ish bit in the entire story. Though he's only in one scene and mute in that, it was a novel thrill to see Patrick Stewart in "Part Four" as Karla.
As I made my way through the series - which I think benefits greatly from being watched in marathon succession - I found myself recalling specific bits from the 2011 film version. Some of this invited quick mental comparisons, of course. The TV mini-series had the luxury of thrice as much time to tell the story, allowing for a pace more appropriate to le Carre's source material. The film was quite impressive, of course, but I feel that this tale in particular needs us to invest ourselves more thoroughly than a 2-hour film demands of us. Instead of fixating on the scenes that were recognizable to me from the 2011 film, then, I found myself periodically thinking of how much content wasn't in that abridgment.
It's a solid production overall, intriguing and compelling. Its pace is pitch perfect, making sure to explore each part of the story in depth, but not lingering a moment longer than necessary to ensure that we get what's happening.
Note: The DVD presentation is, ironically enough, itself an abridgment, compressing the original seven BBC episodes into six, as it was broadcast to American audiences.
For some reason, the bonus content appears on Disc 1.
Interview with John le Carre (27:28) *****
This is the only bonus feature that isn't just screen text. It's a terrific interview, in which the author discusses his original novel, the production of the TV mini-series, his own personal upbringing and the history and nature of Cold War espionage. It's surprisingly dense for an interview that appears to have been filmed in real time and runs just under a half an hour.
John le Carre Biography **
Sir Alec Guinnes **
Ian Richardson *
Michael Aldridge *
Bernard Hepton *
Terence Rigby *
Ian Bannen *
Michael Jayston *
Hywel Bennett *
Anthony Bate *
Meh. These are all just on-screen text lists. Le Carre's biography is interesting, but I'm not a fan of screen text as a format. Likewise the production notes. Curiously, le Carre's interview remarks directly contradict producer John Powell's rosier characterization of Guinness's enthusiasm. Of the filmographies, only Guinness's includes any biographical information. The other actors are relegated to just a list of their selected works.
How Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Entered My Flickchart
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy > Army of Darkness --> #732
The Evil Dead series is fun and all, but I much prefer the slow burn of le Carre's espionage yarns, and the 1979 BBC adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is as perfect a screen version as there has yet been.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy > Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban --> #366
Prisoner of Azkaban was really the first time the Harry Potter series began to break away from the whole "kid wizard" concept and begin to really tell an intriguing story. Unfortunately, its competition here is the epitome of an intriguing story.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy > Matchstick Men --> # 183
Matchstick Men is one of my quickest go-to examples that Nicolas Cage has done some truly terrific work as an actor. Still, I'm going with the top notch le Carre adaptation this time.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy < Slumdog Millionaire --> #183
The BBC version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is intriguing and engaging from start to finish, but I was never emotionally invested in it the way I was in Slumdog Millionaire.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy < Bull Durham --> #183
There are so few baseball movies that are actually, genuinely good movies but Bull Durham is one of them. Being a baseball fan since my youth, I have to go with that film here.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy > The Family Stone --> #160
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed The Family Stone, and it's won more Flickchart matches than I'd have guessed...but it's not beating what may be the best screen version of le Carre's work.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy < How the Grinch Stole Christmas! --> #160
Ah! The definitive Dr. Seuss adaptation versus what may be the definitive John le Carre adaptation. Alas, Seuss is nearer and dearer to me.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy < Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home --> #160
In future rankings, I may give the nod to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but I only just finished watching it and I'm not prepared to pick it over "The One with the Whales".
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy < Summer Interlude --> #160
I'm a fan of both John le Carre's novels and their adaptations, and Ingmar Bergman's films. I could probably go either way on this, but at this moment I favor the coming-of-age Bergman film.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy > Mickey's Christmas Carol --> #158
I love Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and I'm a sucker for nearly any adaptation of it. Mickey's is one of the better ones, at that. But still...I gotta go with Alec Guinness as George Smiley here.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy entered my Flickchart at #158/1464