Acorn Media // 1979 // 324 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // April 12th, 2012
Rich Man, Poor Man,
Beggar Man, Thief.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has saturated the home video market of late. The standard definition version of this release came out last year. More recently, both SD and HD versions of Tomas Alfredson's 2011 film have been released. And now we have the 1979 version on Blu-ray. Given the DVD Verdict reviews already available, I'll provide merely a brief plot synopsis.
There is a mole within the "Circus" (British Secret Intelligence Service) working for the Soviets. The head of the organization, referred to only as "Control" (Alexander Knox, The Vikings) suspects one of his five top men: Percy Alleline/Tinker, Bill Haydon/Tailor, Roy Bland/Soldier, Toby Esterhase/Poorman, and George Smiley/Beggarman. Control's attempt to discover the traitor ends in a disastrous excursion into Czechoslovakia. Control dies shortly thereafter, Smiley (Alec Guinness, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) is shown the door, while Alleline (Michael Aldridge, A Voyage Round My Father), Haydon (Ian Richardson, Dark City), Bland (Terence Rigby, Tomorrow Never Dies), and Esterhase (Bernard Hepton, I, Claudius) assume leadership of the Circus. However, when new evidence comes to light showing Control suspicions were correct, the British Government recruits Smiley to find out who it is, in his uniquely methodical way, drawing on information from both past and present.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy unfolds at a deliberate pace, led by Guinness's textured performance as the fully committed Smiley. He's a highly intelligent man so immersed in his work there is really nothing else going on in his life. Smiley has a wife, but she's strayed many times, thanks to his lack of attention and affection. Smiley lives for his work and ultimately gets his man, but seems to take little satisfaction from a job well done. He's the anti-James Bond and this is most definitely not a Bond film. That can be considered a good or bad thing, depending on your preference for spy stories. The rest of ensemble is solid across the board, including Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) in a wordless performance.
Presented in 1.33:1/1080p high definition full frame, the transfer is far from pristine; obvious that little (if any) restoration was done, given the volume of grain and scratches. The image is soft with little detail, particularly in night scenes, where it's difficult to tell what's happening. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix is adequate, a simple track that delivers dialogue with few problems, but it's apparent no real effort to upgrade the mix was made.
In terms of bonus features, we do get two new supplements not available on the previous DVD release; the interview with John le Carré and the text features being ported over.
* Deleted Scenes -- The original UK version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was seven episodes. The series was trimmed into six for release in North America. The scenes here include those removed to condense the series.
* Interview with director John Irvin -- Irvin discusses his work leading up to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, working with le Carré, getting Guinness to play Smiley, and other memories of the production.
* Interview with John le Carré -- In this 2002 interview, the author he discusses Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the book, the TV adaptation, and the sequel Smiley's People, which also starred Guinness.
* Text Features -- Production notes, le Carré biography, a booklist, and a booklet detailing characters and spy lingo.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a good mini-series with fine acting and an intriguing story, but is it worth the upgrade to Blu-ray? The picture and audio are marginally better than the DVD release, and you get two exclusive bonus features. Do your own cost-benefit analysis to decide whether to pick this one up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* Full Frame (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 324 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Text Features