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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Drama > Cold War > Mini-Series > British > TV > Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (British Mini-series)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (British Mini-series)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Episodes: B-

 

 

In 1979, the Spy Genre had a revival into the realm of the fantastic, but many thought it went too far as exemplified by the James Bond megahit Moonraker.  As a result, critics wildly embraced Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a Mini-series based on the John Le Carré book and starring Alec Guinness as ultra-clever agent George Smiley.  That Guinness returned to form so soon after his blockbuster stint as Obi Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars two years prior was lauded onto itself.

 

The six-part series has Smiley searching for a traitor at the highest level of British Intelligence, dubbed “the circus” here.  So the hunt begins.  Of course, this is a Cold War era story, so some of the tension is lost, plus some of the complaints I had when the series initially aired remain.  For one thing, though more than a few people were expecting Smiley to use martial arts on some old school traitors that sadly never happens.  Worse, Guinness is not in the series enough, despite the fact that he is moral center of the search for the truth.  The few action sequences here are handled very badly, which I blame on director John Irvin, who even had this problem when he did an outright action film.  That would be the 1986 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Raw Deal, which failed to capitalize on his Terminator success and did not help the fledgling DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group stay in business.

 

Also, this tended to still drag a bit and not be as tight as even a deliberately paced Le Carré adaptation needs to be, such as the recent feature film version of his Tailor Of Panama (2001) from director John Boorman, a better director than most.  Another problem is that this tale feels like everything we have seen in the genre before, no matter how well done or well cast it can be.  It is still a solid work, even as dated as it has become, which was more than even I expected.  Le Carré (David Cornwall in real life) says in the 2002 interview included on DVD 1 that this is still his favorite filmed version of his work.  At least they got the form right and how can you go wrong with Guinness?

 

The full frame 1.33 X 1 image is not bad for its age and the film elements have survived in tact well for the most part, but there are some slight issues with detail and such an image in DVD can only go so far to begin with.  For DVD and considering the dark schemes in which the series was purposely shot by the great Tony Pierce- Roberts, B.S.C., who shot many of the best filmed British TV works of 1970s before going on to feature films, especially for the team of Merchant/Ivory.  I wonder what a high definition version of this series would yield?  The subtitles that do appear are 16 X 9/1.78 X 1 friendly, though the DVD does not have a widescreen and/or anamorphic option.  The original monophonic sound is here as Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and is not bad, articulate enough to handle the dialogue-based teleplay by Arthur Hopcraft.  The extras all included on the first DVD include the Le Carré interview (27:28), production notes, cast filmographies and a bio and bibliography on Le Carré.  Even though the Cold War is long over, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is worth another look, flaws and all.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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