Release Date(s)2011 (February 22, 2022)
Studio(s)StudioCanal/Karla Films/Working Title Films (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
The year is 1972. In the thick of the Cold War, the Chief of British Intelligence (aka “Control,” played by John Hurt) is forced to retire along with his deputy, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), after sending an agent into a trap in Budapest. Their replacements in “The Circus” of MI6 are Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), who claim to have cultivated a new high-quality source within Russian intelligence. But after Control’s death, a permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office learns from another British agent that there may be a mole within The Circus, a theory that Control apparently shared. So Smiley is called out of retirement—joined by loyal lieutenant Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch)—and tasked with finding this mole before “Karla,” the KGB’s mysterious spymaster, can do irreparable harm to Her Majesty’s Government.
Based on the acclaimed novel by John le Carré, Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a modern masterpiece of the spy genre. Featuring a veteran cast of British actors, gorgeously-textured cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema (Spectre, Dunkirk), and intricate plotting, this is a film that revels in its tiniest details and moments. A brief glance, a slight expression, the sparest of clues—all of these things speak volumes, making Tinker Tailor an experience that rewards multiple viewings. Of course, no two-hour film can do justice to the scale and complexity of a novel. But the screenplay by Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor distills the source material into an effective pastiche, combining rich-yet-delicate character-building with a story that turns upon the flow of information. What’s more, Alfredson (Let the Right One In, The Snowman) brings it all to the screen with the skill and patience required to deliver tense and cinematic drama with a satisfying conclusion.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was shot on 35 mm film (in 3-perf Super 35 format) by van Hoytema, using Panavision Panaflex Millennium cameras with Panavision Primo Lenses, and it was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.35:1 aspect ratio for its theatrical release. Kino Lorber Studio Classic’s new Ultra HD edition presents the film in full 4K mastered from the DI, complete with a new high dynamic range grade approved by the cinematographer (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are available). The resulting image quality is gorgeous, busting with rich detail in skin, suit fabric, brick, and stonework. Photochemical grain is medium-strong yet organic, as intended by the filmmakers, which contributes to the gritty atmosphere. Colors are wonderfully accurate and more nuanced than ever, even as the palette leans toward cooler grays and earth tones. The HDR grade is absolutely sublime, restrained yet dramatically enhancing the detail in highlights and shadows alike. That’s critical, as this is a film that thrives in the shadows. This is a terrific 4K presentation for this particular film.
The film’s original English audio is included in both 5.1 and 2.0 in DTS-HD Master Audio format. Like the image, the soundtrack is subtle and atmospheric. Dialogue is clear and clean, with efficient Foley work and Alberto Iglesias’ evocative score well balanced in the mix. The surround channels are employed almost exclusively for music and ambience, but occasionally there’s a bit of smooth panning (the MiG flyover, for example, as well as the odd gunshot). The soundstage is pleasingly wide and immersive. It’s a decidedly unflashy mix, but a very good one nonetheless. Optional English and English SDH subtitles are also available.
Kino’s 4K disc includes only one extra (listed in the setup section), wisely allowing the film itself plenty of room to breathe:
- Audio Commentary with Thomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman
But the package also includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray, which also appears to be remastered. That disc adds the following:
- Audio Commentary with Thomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman
- First Look: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (HD – 13:00)
- Interview with Gary Oldman (SD – 7:40)
- Interview with Colin Firth (SD – 6:33)
- Interview with Tom Hardy (SD – 3:27)
- Interview with Thomas Alfredson and Peter Straughan (SD – 7:01)
- Interview with John le Carré (HD – 31:48)
- Deleted Scenes (HD – 6:08)
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Trailer (HD – 2:01)
- Out of Sight Trailer (HD – 2:35)
- Eastern Promises Trailer (HD – 1:55)
- In Bruges Trailer (HD – 2:30)
The trailers are new (and in full HD), but the rest of this material has carried over from Universal’s original 2012 Blu-ray and DVD release. There’s a glossy HBO First Look piece. The cast and crew interviews are of the usual studio EPK variety, so they’re not especially illuminating or conversational (they’re also in SD only). However, the interview with le Carré is conversational, much longer, and in full HD, making it one of the best pieces on the disc. The deleted scenes are in HD too, and some of them are intriguing (though a couple are only unfinished shots). In keeping with the tone of the film, the commentary with Alfredson and Oldman is quietly thoughtful and fascinating. Taken together, this isn’t a lot of material, but what’s good is quite good and worth your time.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is truly the sort of movie that seldom gets made for today’s theatrical marketplace. And that’s a shame, because it would be terrific to see Alfredson turn his attention to adapting le Carré’s two remaining “Smiley” novels—The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People—for the screen, films for which Oldman and Cumberbatch could certainly return. In any case, though its appearance on 4K Ultra HD would once have seemed unlikely, this film is surely deserving of such treatment and the release is a welcome addition to any cinephile’s 4K collection. Highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt