Based on a John LeCarre novel, Tinker Tailor is a cold war espionage thriller about an MI-6 officer who is resurrected from a shameful forced retirement to ferret out a Russian infiltrator from the British intelligence service.
This film stands out for a host of reasons. Tinker Tailor is complicated, as a spy thriller should be, but without being overly dense. The pace of the film is incredibly deliberate, but never butt-cheek numbingly slow. It's as realistic an international spy movie as I can imagine (and having been rejected by the CIA in my twenties, imagination is all I have to go on), without ever feeling documentary. When the closing credits rolled, I felt as though I had just seen a compelling "action" movie, and yet Tinker offers a generally quiet tone and nary a car chase.
These are all good reasons to see Tinker Tailor, but the performance of its stellar ensemble cast is what makes this film superb. Featuring Gary Oldman, John Hurt, and Colin Firth, the movie is beautifully acted. Like players on a great sports team, each actor understands and plays his role perfectly, never overreaching or trying to do too much. While Hurt and Firth are impeccable, Gary Oldman manages to own this film, though he does so without stealing the show. Oldman doesn't act, he becomes, and in Tinker Tailor, he somehow allows us inside the head of a character who, on screen, seldom shares his thoughts or shows his emotions.
The conflicts and twists in the story are compelling, but even if they weren't, the quality of the performances in Tinker Tailor, which comes in at just over 2 hours, make this film worth your time and your $12.
(In case you're still not convinced...)