It's the 1970's and there are suspicions that Britain's Secret Intelligence Service colloquially known as the Circus has been infiltrated at the highest levels by a Soviet mole. When an effort to uncover the identity of the mole goes catastrophically wrong it results in changes at the top of the organization. Seasoned stalwarts like Control (John Hurt) and George Smiley (Gary Oldman) are put out to pasture and replaced by men of less reason and more zeal. But Smiley's retirement is short-lived when an official from outside the intelligence community asks him to investigate whether or not a mole actually exists. The search leads Smiley down a dark trail that casts a shadow over the Circus and leaves him once again facing a fearless Soviet adversary from his past.
Having sat through some stodgy espionage stories I wasn't sure what to expect here but happily Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a crackerjack thriller that had me anxiously awaiting the next turn in the curve. Gary Oldman is outstanding as George Smiley. His entire demeanor beautifully captures John le Carre's world weary cold warrior. The fine supporting cast includes John Hurt as Control and Toby Jones as Percy Alleline his headstrong successor at the top of the Circus. Alleline's inner circle consists of Colin Firth (Best Actor-The King's Speech) as the dapper Bill Haydon, Ciaran Hinds as Roy Bland the hatchet man and David Dencik as the lackey Toby Esterhase. Mark Strong is good as an agent sent behind the Iron Curtain on a mission to obtain the identity of the mole. Tom Hardy is a low level agent who is unwittingly drawn into the fray.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn't a film you can leave for the concession stand as the pieces are all interconnected like a puzzle but it's definitely worth the effort. Tomas Alfredson's direction and Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography expertly transport us back to the Cold War era when a lot of dreary men patrolled the trenches between two implacable ideologies battling for global hegemony.