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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)


Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 206
Fresh: 171 | Rotten: 35

Critics Consensus: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a dense puzzle of anxiety, paranoia, and espionage that director Tomas Alfredson pieces together with utmost skill.

Average Rating: 8.4/10
Critic Reviews: 42
Fresh: 39 | Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a dense puzzle of anxiety, paranoia, and espionage that director Tomas Alfredson pieces together with utmost skill.


Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 51,146


Movie Info

Based on the classic novel of the same name, the international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government - which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets. -- (C) Focus Features

R (for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language)
Mystery & Suspense , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
John Le Carré
In Theaters:
Mar 20, 2012
Box Office:
Focus Features - Official Site



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Critic Reviews for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

All Critics (206) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (171) | Rotten (35) | DVD (3)

The movie is riveting in the exact sense of the word: We feel nailed to the screen in the impossible task of working out what is going on-let alone why it matters.

Full Review… | June 20, 2013
The New Republic
Top Critic

A deliberate, cerebral, grim and utterly absorbing film that makes covert operations appear as unsexy as the Bourne films made them seem fast-paced and thrilling.

Full Review… | January 6, 2012
Miami Herald
Top Critic

Ultimately, though, it is very much Oldman's film, thanks to a restrained tour de force performance. Smiley is weathered, worn and beaten down by life, but he's also a quiet, sure force of something that resembles good.

Full Review… | January 6, 2012
Detroit News
Top Critic

"Tinker" radically -- superlatively -- condenses John Le Carré's classic novel, which could scarcely be bounded by seven hourlong episodes in the 1979 BBC adaptation.

Full Review… | December 26, 2011
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

It's a well-crafted film that wears its old-fashionedness with pride.

Full Review… | December 23, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" has a murkiness to it that perfectly fits a spy film; you need to pay attention, or the story will slip away into the shadows.

Full Review… | December 22, 2011
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Even an ensemble cast of a very high pedigree can't overcome a plot that's been compacted into near-incomprehensibility.

Full Review… | August 15, 2014
Under the Radar

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," with its meticulous Cold War details and labyrinthine plot, is like a smoky 25-year-old single malt scotch whiskey. It hits you hard, but goes down smooth.

Full Review… | September 25, 2013

A masterful adaptation of John Le Carre's 1970s spy thriller about the secret British hunt for a high-ranking KGB mole.

Full Review… | March 4, 2013
Concrete Playground

For all those that look at the films of the golden age and chide that "they don't make them that way anymore", here's a fine example that a film can be fresh, intelligent, drawing from the past while carving out its own unique and very contemporary vision

Full Review… | February 2, 2013

Majestically directed, masterfully acted and brilliantly written, it's not just the best British film of the year but the best film of the year - full stop.

Full Review… | November 15, 2012
Daily Star

It's of massive benefit ... to have many of the best British actors carrying this dense, convoluted plot through its many twists and knots.

Full Review… | September 25, 2012

From watching the film, it ends up feeling like maybe reading the book should be a prerequisite, or perhaps viewing the five-hour miniseries would be a good idea.

Full Review… | September 17, 2012

A very gripping, brilliantly directed character driven genre film, with top class performances from a flawless ensemble cast headed by a perfect performance from Gary Oldman.

Full Review… | September 15, 2012
We Got This Covered

Alfredson's marvelous precision in showing how an agent might do difficult espionage work is as thrilling as any overblown James Bond setpiece.

Full Review… | August 17, 2012
Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema

an ultra-realistic view of the spy game

Full Review… | May 25, 2012
7M Pictures

With its hushed and methodical approach - similar to that of Smiley himself - the movie rolls on toward its big reveal with workmanlike exactitude.

Full Review… | May 16, 2012
The Standard

The film has intrigues, shootings, infidelities and clues -- lots of clues -- which we ponder, along with the poker-faced Smiley, played with Oscar-nominated perfection by Gary Oldman.

Full Review… | March 23, 2012
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

unfolds with maximum perplexity, ensuring that we will never, despite being able to grasp the stakes and gravity of individual scenes, be sure exactly what is going on.

Full Review… | March 22, 2012
Q Network Film Desk

Outstanding performances and fascinating visual design are somewhat marred by a slow pace and a dry narrative.

Full Review… | March 22, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy can assert a serious claim to be the best espionage film ever made.

Full Review… | March 19, 2012
Irish Times

like watching a large candle burn down to nothing and then wondering why there weren't any fireworks. Maybe I was expecting too much? Considering the cast and the subject matter it may be a case of too much of a good thing

Full Review… | March 8, 2012
The Popcorn Junkie

No es una película "agradable" ni "entretenida"; es una película incómoda y cerebral apenas perturbada por pequeñas alteraciones en sus personajes. Como las de George Smiley, en la brillante composición de Gary Oldman.

Full Review… | February 28, 2012
Uruguay Total

full review at Movies for the Masses

Full Review… | February 17, 2012
Movies for the Masses

There has always been this ultra-cool tendency in British spy movies, but I don't ever remember seeing one this emotionless. There probably have been some, but few have combined emotional detachment with such technical mastery of filmmaking techniques.

Full Review… | February 2, 2012
Laramie Movie Scope

Audience Reviews for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


It's slow, complex, stimulating and uncompromising; basically an average movie-goer's nightmare. I love that.

Liam Gadd
Liam Gadd

Super Reviewer


An ex spy for MI6 is called out of retirement to uncover a Russian double agent in the top echelons of their organisation. The one thing that can be said in favour of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is that it reeks of quality. The exceptional ensemble cast present what can only be described as an acting master class and the direction, photography and production design are all top notch. The problem with the film lies with its script, but that's not to say that it's badly written; quite the contrary in fact. The dialogue is smart, the themes sophisticated and characters well drawn. The trouble lies with the fact that this Cold War world of secrecy, back stabbing and betrayal seems so alien in the internet age that it's quite difficult to involve yourself in the dense, convoluted story. I couldn't connect emotionally with any of these cold-hearted and detached individuals and the fact of the matter was that I didn't really care who the mole was. Technically marvellous but those looking for a cinematic quick fix will find Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy too much like hard work.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

If for one second you think that this adaptation of John LeCarre's seminal novel taking place during the 60's cold war is not relevant today, then you need to re-examine your thinking. The Spy business is alive and well, and good information is just as all important now as it was then (though the villain, for the time being may have changed).

That being said, this is a very dense, expertly filmed (every frame has context and meaning), vision that somehow is just too British Buttoned Down for it's own good. Director Tomas Alfredson moves the film along at a slow but steady pace - giving you time to contemplate all the clues and red herrings, just as the main character George Smiley (in a magnificently controlled performance by Gary Oldman), tries to work it all out.

The film starts out with a bang - a BSS agent enters the flat of BSS head man "Control" (the always wonderful John Hurt). Hurt tells the agent that he is going "off the books" to "bring over" a Hungarian Colonel who is dangling the ultimate carrot: the identity of a mole within the BSS. Of course, since there is a high level mole in place according to this source, Control cannot let anyone else within the agency know of this agent's mission.

The agent arrives in Budapest and makes contact with a man acting as a front for the Hungarian Colonel. Alfredson does a wonderful job of allowing the camera to follow the agents' gaze: taking in all the people hanging out in and around the outdoor café where the meet was scheduled. This paranoid viewpoint, where anyone and everyone could be a plant or enemy agent is wonderfully filmed and just one example of how every frame of the film is planned, staged and with meaning.

Later, Control steps down (in somewhat of a disgrace) and mentions to the "inner circle" that ageing agent Smiley is retiring as well. Now that Smiley is "outside" the circle, he is now free to investigate said circle and try to ferret out the mole.

So what comes next is a byzantine and complex puzzle with Smiley taking it all in and processing what it all means. There is no James Bond action here, just a very smart, minimalistic man pursuing the threads of a conspiracy. He looks at several of the inner circle, peopled by such European stalwarts as Colin Firth and Cairan Hinds. Firth in particular is a joy to watch as he seemingly floats above the actions around him with his winning smile.

In my mind what prevents this film from becoming the standard for all spy films is that somehow the sense of urgency is lacking. It is as if there is no life or death consequence and while it would be nice if the mole is discovered, one gets the sense that it isn't a deal breaker (which is absurd, for it indeed is - as one spy tells the other "everything we think is gold is shit"). Perhaps it is just this - the action is all words and wordplay - nothing wrong with that (as I'd wish most Hollywood films used a bit more discretion in the shoot em up dept.) - but the tension level never seems to heat up to the boiling point. Regardless, this is a very intelligent film that's beautifully crafted. It assumes that you have a degree of brain power, so it doesn't spoon feed you the clues on a platter... which is so reminiscent of Brit spy films of the 60's and 70's like The Ipcress File and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

A superior and utterly absorbing edge of your seat thriller that will knock you out of your seat. A masterpiece plain and simple. An instant classic of the spy genre. It`s The Godfather of spy films. A sharply stylish and sophisticated film that is just brilliant with its characters, story and film-making. It`s truly the thriller of the year. A wickedly entertaining and exhilarating movie that just shines with greatness. This is certainly the best picture of 2011. An explosive and mind-blowing movie that grabs you and dose not let go until the last shot. It`s unbelievably smart and lightning-paced. A intelligent, tension-packed, suspense-filled and pulse-pounding thrill-ride. An unforgettable and powerful film. The all-star cast is pitch perfect with amazing performances. Gary Oldman is superb, he gives a tour de force performance that truly deserves awards attention. Tom Hardy is terrific. Mark Strong is excellent. Toby Jones is electric. And that's just a few of the brilliant performances featured in this film with a dazzling dream cast. Director, Tomas Alfredson crafts his masterwork. A true must-see that will be talked about for years. An extraordinary and dark piece of work that will have you spellbound and compelled. You will leave your seat just as pleased with this film as you would with any shoot-em up action flick.

Al S

Super Reviewer

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Quotes

George Smiley: Hello Ricki. You missed the wedge.
– Submitted by Stuart I (39 days ago)
George Smiley: It was the war Connie.
– Submitted by Stuart I (39 days ago)
George Smiley: Karla will be looking for you. Ricki Tarr: Yeah. Everybody's looking for me. George Smiley: You can't stay here. It isn't safe.
– Submitted by George P (9 months ago)
Ricki Tarr: Then the message comes through. "We read you." That was all they said. Nothing. It didn't make sense. It was like they were stalling. George Smiley: Then what happened? Ricki Tarr: Then all of a sudden the Russians begin to move. [He finds a dead body]. It was nice work. i couldn't have done better myself. The message was clear. I had to warn her [Irina]. [Ricki telephones her, but she's afraid to pick up the phone, and then some Russians come and take her away.] I looked for her everywhere. I couldn't find her at the airport. I checked the ports. They had taken her away on a ship.
– Submitted by George P (9 months ago)
Ricki Tarr: They're going to kill me. George Smiley: Who is? Ricki Tarr: Your lot. Or their lot, whoever gets me first. I'm innocent. Within reason.
– Submitted by Miguel V (19 months ago)
Ricki Tarr: She had information concerning a double agent. What she told me was sensational.
– Submitted by Miguel V (19 months ago)

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