Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

Despite being stuck with less than half the running time of the acclaimed 1979 BBC adaptation, this bigscreen version of John le Carré’s novel does a remarkable job of condensing the tricky plot into a two-hour movie experience. Helped out by an astonishing cast of some of the UK’s brightest acting talent (Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth and many more), it’s a gripping tale of intrigue and deceit. And even if the resolution doesn’t quite deliver the impact you might expect, the journey to get there is utterly flawless.

Picture: Like his previous vampire film Let the Right One In, director Tomas Alfredson immerses his audience in a very deliberate and muted world of greys and browns. Only here its used to bring a authenticity to the film’s drab recreation of early ‘70s Britain. Yet even if it isn’t a particularly showy film, and despite some occasional edge edhancement, the AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode still has much to recommend it, not least the combination of rock-solid black level and fine detailing, which gives even the gloomiest scenes a sense of depth and spaciousness.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: Tinker, Tailor...’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is every bit as understated and controlled as its visuals. This isn’t a film about shoot-outs and explosions, it’s about conversations and (just as importantly) the silences between them. But this focus on dialogue doesn’t mean that it’s an uninvolving mix. Rather, the surround channels are used almost exclusively to help build a world for the characters to inhabit. Be it the rush of cars driving past in the streets of London to phones ringing all around you in the ‘Circus’. Meanwhile, the subwoofer is effectively utilised for a metronomic, heartbeat-like rhythm used to help ratchet up the tension.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: Tomas Alfredson joins Gary Oldman for a feature-length chat track that promises to ‘guide you through a film that’s too complicated to watch without us’. What follows is a detailed discussion of the filmmaking process and the changes that had to be made between the book and the movie.

Up next is a quartet of featurettes (Smiley, Inside the Circus, Shadow World and John le Carré) that flesh out some extra details about the story, the world it inhabits and its author. Then there’s a quartet of interviews with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and Alfredson and screenwriter Peter Straughan. These are followed by a lengthier (30-minute) chat with le Carré himself.

A reel of five deleted scenes comes next. There’s nothing that would add anything to the movie, but one with Smiley being warned about ‘the old bill hiding in the bushes’ on Hampstead Heath provides a little levity. Rounding things off are a UK Premiere Featurette, a Sky Movies Special, a gallery of 20 stills, two trailers and audio book excerpts from le Carré’s follow-up novels, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: This superior slow-burn spy thriller makes a strong impression on its hi-def debut

StudioCanal UK, Region B BD/R2 DVD, £25 Approx, On sale now