Friday, January 13, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Genre: Drama
John LaCarre's 1975 book was first translated as a six-hour miniseries starring Sir Alec Guinness. Guinness was a great actor and all the coiled intensity and intelligent deduction he brought to a rather boring and ordinary-looking man made the show remarkable and a notch or three above the "Cocktails, Sex and Berettas" skulduggery that was typical fodder for the Cold War drama series. It seemed like La Carre must have known what was going on inside British Intelligence even though he denied he was using much fwcknew at how the top echelon of the British spy organization ("The Circus") starts to unravel on itself as it more than his imagination for years until it was revealed he had been a spy himself during the 1950's when Britain espionage services had its share of high-ranking"fifth columnists" like Donald Burgess, MacLean and Kim Philby.

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" takes place after the revelations of double-agents have put "The Circus" back on its heels. The head of intelligence, "Control" (John Hurt) believes a new mole has cropped up inside the agency, but he dies before being able to carry out a internal affairs investigation. The last of control's Old Guard, George Smiley (here played compellingly by Gary Oldman) is brought out of forced retirement to track down the mole; there are four main key figures he has to investigate and ferret out the one rotten apple before his own agents are shut down by the mole or "Moscow Center" further compromises his old agency, and everytrhing he and his cadre of spy recruits in "The Nursery" training center worked to build up since the end of World War II.

The politics around the story hardly matters as much as the threat of suspicion, betrayal and distrust. Smiley knows something about all this in his private life as his beloved wife, Ann, has been sexually involved with one of his suspects and the rest of his peers in the Circus know full well he is a wounded cuckold. Oldman imparts a weary but stoic and dogged portrayal of a man not home in his own home or his old agency.

He is driven to finish a job and its only at the end--for those who haven't read the book-- that we realize his work is far from over. Hanging over the whole story like a haunting specter is Karla, a Stalin-era Soviet super-agent who somehow survived the purges of Krushchev's
de-Stalinization programs at the Kremlin. He's a true believer that Smiley once tried to turn to the West in a meeting in New Delhi, and who wouldn't even flinch despite the desperate situation he faced back in Moscow.

He has more up his sleeve than the mole Smiley is trying to take down, hence the need for LaCarre's next two books in this series, "The Honourable Schoolboy" and his next masterpiece "Smileys People", later a 1982 television series that one hopes will become the next movie with these writers, director and fine cast.


  1. Here's a "pint of Guinness" from the original 1979 series. Here Smiley confers with a colleague, Bill Haydon, played by Ian Richardson. They discuss "Merlin" a leak from inside Moscow Center that could be too good to be true, and the prospects of one of their own being the mole inside their own paranoia-prone organization.

  2. Doug Ive seen a few ads on tv about this but Im just not much into spy flicks (Im probably the only person on the planet who didnt see all the James Bond films). lol but nevertheless this does seem to be interesting

  3. There's a few film and book genres I'm not into either, Mike. Obviously this one isn't for everybody. '

    Thanks for looking in though.