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Based upon the novel by John le Carré, TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY ($60) is probably the best adaptation of spy drama ever produced for television- British or otherwise. TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is not the type of spy story that most have come to expect from the action packed James Bond movies that have been around for almost fifty years. Instead, TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is more of an intellectual exercise in cold war intrigue. The story is very much character driven, with lengthy dialogue passages and flashbacks that fill in all of the investigative exposition.

The premise of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is concerned with the internal working of a British intelligence agency, which is referred to as The Circus. We learn relatively quickly that The Circus has undergone a reorganization that resulted in the ouster of its leader, along with his chief deputy, after a disastrous undertaking in Czechoslovakia, which was known as Operation Testify. The failure of Operation Testify results the capture of a key British agent, however the true purpose of the mission to Czechoslovakia, was to gain the intel, which would have revealed the identity of a high-ranking Soviet mole, codenamed "Gerald," operating within The Circus.

Despite the ouster of the previous regime, the "Gerald" problem remains… with the list of possible suspects narrowed down to remain within the top echelon of The Circus. With the government still needing to clean house within The Circus, ousted Deputy Chief George Smiley (Alec Guinness) is recalled from his forced retirement to head up a covert investigation designed to root out the Soviet mole. To reveal any more about the plot, would do a disservice to those watching TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY for the very first time. As expected, Alec Guinness is a delight to watch in the role of George Smiley, whose own personal issues are a cause for discomfort, yet are never a distraction to the matter at hand. The cast of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY also includes Michael Jayston, Anthony Bate, Bernard Hepton, Ian Richardson, Ian Bannen, Hywel Bennett, Michael Aldridge, Terence Rigby, Alexander Knox, George Sewell, Beryl Reid, Joss Ackland, Siân Phillips, Nigel Stock, Patrick Stewart, John Standing, Thorley Walters, Mandy Cuthbert, Warren Clarke, Susan Kodicek, Alec Sabin, Hilary Minster, George Pravda and Duncan Jones.

Acorn Media has made all six episodes that comprise TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.37:1 full screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p (1080i?) presentations do not show off high definition to it full advantage, but the original 16mm production of the series is somewhat to blame. Back in 1979, large screen televisions were a whopping twenty five inches, so the 16mm production techniques employed, were considered good enough for British TV. However, the master used here doesn’t appear to be of a recent vintage, so the image never seems to pull the full level of detail that may be contained in the original 16mm elements. The image does appear a tad softer than it should, although there are shots that look surprisingly better than others. Colors have that somewhat dusty seventies era appearance, with seemingly subdued hues, but the image is a tad warmer than I would have expected. Blacks appear relatively correct and the whites are crisp. Contrast has a television production level bent, but is otherwise fine. The elements from which the episodes are transferred appear to be in relatively good shape, with only minor faults being present. Grain is noticeable throughout.

All of the episodes that comprise TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY are presented on Blu-ray Disc with a Dolby Digital 2.0 channel monaural soundtrack. Overall, the soundtrack is workmanlike and gets the job done without flourishes. Sound effects are rendered well enough for this type of dialogue driven drama. Dialogue maintains a general sense of character, in addition to being completely understandable. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English subtitles are provided.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some extras. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Interview With Director John Irvin (thirty minutes) and Interview With John Le Carré (twenty minutes). Twelve Deleted/Missing Scenes, Production Notes and a Glossary Of Characters & Terms close out the extras.

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is an entertaining chess game of spy maneuvering, with the legendary Alec Guinness doing what he does best as the chess master. The Blu-ray presentation isn’t the best, but it gets the job done. Recommended mostly for content, less so for presentation.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy [Blu-ray]


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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