Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus goes to The Circus and doesn't see a single clown or elephant
After leaving the British Intelligence agency (known by its agents as 'The Circus'), George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is called back on a secret mission to find a mole who is believed to be right at the top of the organisation.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy pulls together the cream of British acting talent for this slow burning tale set in the seventies. Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson perfectly captures the era the story is set in and uses his actors near perfectly in a movie that (as many comment on the extra features) is the 'Anti-Bond' when it comes to the spy game.
What works so wonderfully about Tinker Tailor is that scenes feel crammed with layers of important information that usually come at us with characters sitting down or having calm, gentlemanly conversations. As an audience member we are expected to keep up, remember faces, simply watch and learn, very much like our lead George Smiley does. This is a man who seems to do very little but in his own way manipulates those around him towards showing their hand and really I didn't appreciate this on my first viewing to the degree I did here when sitting down to review the DVD.
This movie moves at a slow burning pace but every frame feels important to the whole somehow. The flashbacks, the small discoveries about characters, relationships between colleagues, everything gets drawn into this plot and while the ultimate endgame is "who is the mole" that somehow doesn't feel quite as important as finding out more about Smiley.
Gary Oldman obviously shines in this and it's felt like too long since he's had this prominent a role and he comes off well. Of course there's the initial Alec Guinness-ness about his voice that took me a few scenes to grow accustomed to but once that fades he's fantastic in so many of the key scenes. The cast around him are also playing strong. I have some issues with Colin Firth as I never quite buy that guy in anything -outside of A Simple Man and Where the Truth Lies and I didn't quite click onto Tom Hardy's character somehow but that's probably because its such a 'normal' role for him compared to his other films.
I wasn't sure Tinker Tailor would play as strong on repeat viewings as the mystery mole elements would not have the same draw but somehow that doesn't matter at all. The film works wonders for different reasons the second time through and rewatching many-a-scene on the extras somehow makes small moments of the film feel even better. Small nuggets of dialogue really pop and the construction of this story is something that really deserves a lot of praise.
With a distinctly retro feel to the film the gritty texture to the image may not be everybody's cup of tea. In low lit scenes the image can look decidedly grubby but as a stylistic choice this works for the period. Colours are pretty good with plenty of oranges and browns dotted about the entire film to add to that seventies look. Generally it's quite a drab grey and beige affair but again this fits the mood perfectly.
Skin tones come off well lit in darker scenes but remain very natural in the mostly grey daytime scenes. The image is soft throughout but the wider shots can look very hazy indeed losing a lot of detail making Tinker Tailor a transfer that about 50% works on DVD. It's got its moments but this is a film that needs that HD kick to rise above its limitations I think.
This Dolby Digital 5.1 track is surprisingly strong with a lot of subtlety. The soft piano score delicatly creates the desired mood, there plenty of day to day ambience and sound effects and that well delivered dialogue is crisp and clear at all times. When the action, however slight, kicks off its usuallty a simple volume increase as opposed to anything too exciting. That said the scores increase in paces grows wonderfully in the mix, as does the pace of the dialogue and it all works wonderfully.
Disc 1 opens with trailers for The Awakening, Tyrannosaur and Carnage. Then its on to the commentary with director Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman. This is a slow affair with plenty of silent moments much like the film. Alfredson tries to cover the looks of the scenes while Oldman poses questions and comments on some of the actors in the film and the small moments in their performances he likes, some of which would almost go unnoticed without Oldman homing in on them.
The 'John Le Carre Interview' (29:44) is a relatively raw interview with questions coming from off camera. Le Carre is open and gives highly detailed answers to the questions and paints a picture of his world of characters and the British Intelligence. This is probably the biggest draw of the disc for any fans of the writer and its very good indeed. Lastly on Disc 1 is the deleted scenes (05:43)
Disc 2 starts with the featurettes all of which have input from the cast and crew and most of it very personal and detailed but they are in such short bursts that even the term 'featurettes' feels generous. The subjects covered are 'Smiley' (02:24), 'Inside the Circus' (02:09), 'Shadow World' (02:14) and 'John Le Carre' (02:20).
The interviews section has Gary Oldman (07:35) in Commissioner Gordon mode as he describes his take on Smiley in a nice amount of detail and also Colin Firth (06:28), Tom Hardy (03:22) and director Tomas Alfredson and writer Peter Straughan (06:56).
The 'UK Premiere' (04:47) is a highlight reel of the event with a few interviews. The 'Sky Movies Special' (20:30) would be fluff if it wasn't for the participants, who give a thorough, detailed account of the characters and story and the world it's set in. This is all shot in the same press junket as the interviews intercut with plenty of clips, which are surpringly fun.
Next up is the 'Photo Gallery' and some audio books. Sort of. They are just one chapter each of 'Honorable Schoolboy' Chapter 1 (54:15) and 'Smiley's People' Chapter 1 (55:32) but both a nice taster for anyone wanting more from the Tinker Tailor world.
Lastly we get the teaser trailer (01:17) and full trailer (01:49) wrapping up some extras that don't feel all that in depth really but I still got a lot from them.
Tinker Tailor Solider Spy was great the first time I saw it but it was a nice surprise that it played so much better the second time while watching it for this review. It's packed with some great performances and the pacing here is just perfect for the genre. The DVD itself isn't going to please everyone video wise but the audio is strong. As for the extras, part of me thinks they are weak, mainly due to the so called 'featurettes' and their short run times but as a whole, the rest of the features gave me everything I wanted to know about the project and more, so I can't really knock them.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 30th January 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Stereo 2.0 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Commentary, Featurettes, Interviews, Trailers, Sky Movies Special, Audio Books
Easter Egg: No
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Ciarán Hinds, Mark Strong, Stephen Graham
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Length: 127 minutes
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