I reviewed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy upon its release in the cinema – see my Mini Review – and I said “Slow. Complex. Deliberate. Magnificent.”
It is all these things, but I recently got the chance to watch the film again and wanted to add some comments. This is largely due to having listened to the BBC’s Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas and getting to know George Smiley’s character in more detail.
When I saw the film originally I went in not knowing what the plot was. Now I view the film again and can appreciate some of the details that I either missed or was oblivious to the first time round. Some of the looks. Some of the dialogue that previously meant nothing – “a debriefing at Sarratt”. At least one of the minor characters would come to much greater prominence later in the Karla trilogy of books.
What also becomes clear is the good job that is made of making all the principal characters possible contenders to be the department’s mole.
This really is a film for people who know the story – seeing the film a second time makes you realise just how much information you are assulted with. No wonder you miss a lot. Starting with the “Tinker, Tailor” radio drama could be a good place to start, as it lasts an extra hour (three hours to the film’s two) and gives the plot additional space to develop.
So lower the lights, sit back and enjoy once more a very classy film – and the best of the Smiley stories where he is the main character.