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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), French, Spanish DTS 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 115 Mins.
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD + UltraViolet)
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 20, 2012
  • List Price: $19.99

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

John Le Carré’s novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, arrives in film form for the second time in this big screen adaptation from director Tomas Alfredson and screenwriters Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan. The novel was first adapted as a television mini-series in 1979 starring Alec Guinness (Doctor Zhivago; The Lavender Hill Mob). In this commendable effort, Gary Oldman (Kung Fu Panda 2; The Dark Knight; The Fifth Element) steps into the role previously held by Guinness, playing Carré’s famous spy George Smiley.

Set in 1973 as the Cold War is beginning to escalate, Smiley, forced into retirement along with his superior, Control (John Hurt) after an operation in Budapest goes wrong and an MI6 operative is shot, George Smiley is dragged back out of retirement to investigate a possible Soviet mole at the highest levels of British intelligence.

A marvel of precision, the screenplay here is a truly brilliant effort that nails the often complex style that Carré is known for. Difficult to bring to the screen, Carré’s numerous characters, subplots and tangential story lines can become overwhelming and result in a confusing film, but this Tinker Tailor avoids the traps, crafting a slow, steady, and methodical tale that, like the chess pieces in the film itself, all fall into place in a satisfying denouement.

Apart from delivering a precise adaptation of the novel, Alfredson and company also manage to impart in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the very essence of 1970s Cold War paranoia and malaise through a clever use of lighting and color – or perhaps I should say, a lack thereof. The film’s desaturated color palette evokes the cinema of the era and the steady, methodical pace, eased along by Alberto Iglesias’ score, full of strife and melancholy, imparts a mood of dread and world weariness.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Director Tomas Alfredson and director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema have opted to give Tinker Tailor the desaturated look of a 1970s film. That look also includes a somewhat grainy texture, courtesy of the original Fuji Eterna 500T 8573 and Reala 500D 8592 Super 35mm film production. While some viewers might find the extra bit of graininess a little off-putting, I actually like the look of the production and think it adds a bit of authenticity to the feeling of 70s Cold War malaise and paranoia. The 2.35:1 framed AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement from Universal looks about as film-like as one could ask for, giving a natural grain structure and lack of compression artifacts or awful post-processing issues. Although the artistic choices keep the film from having absolutely rock solid darks, what this does allow the image is a wonderfully extended amount of shadow detail.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

Although the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a subtle one, it is immensely effective. Unlike most dialogue-driven films that put the focus squarely on the dialogue and forget all about engaging the listener in any other way, this soundtrack has many little things going on the mix that don’t become distracting, but add to the atmosphere nonetheless. From the opening we are surrounded by the gentle sound of rain. Throughout, the front channels are used effectively for directional panning of everything from dialogue to office sounds. The surround channels are brought in for effective atmospheric effects like traffic noise, kids playing in the distance, or, again, general office chatter. There is even a scene where the sound of a tapped phone line is panned off to the sides, using a FL/SL and FR/SR configuration for a wide-stereo sound. This may sound aggressive, but it is handled very delicately and always fits the material. Well done.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

By far the strongest extra on here is the half-hour-long HD interview with John Le Carré. Everything else, besides the slightly above average audio commentary, is just typical throwaway material.

The supplements:

  • Feature commentary with director Tomas Alfredson and actor Gary Oldman
  • Deleted Scenes (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:06:08)
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: First Look (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:13:00) – A brief video synopsis of the film featuring cast and crew.
  • Interviews:
    • Gary Oldman (1.78:1; SD; 00:07:40)
    • Colin Firth (1.78:1; SD; 00:06:33)
    • Tom Hardy (1.78:1; SD; 00:03:27)
    • Director Tomas Alfredson and co-screenwriter Peter Straughan (1.78:1; SD; 00:07:01)
    • John Le Carré (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:31:48) – The author talks about his time in the intelligence service and its relationship to his fictional writing, in particular, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
  • BD-Live
  • DVD
  • UltraViolet

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

While this 2011 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy may not hold up to the well regarded 1979 mini-series with Alec Guinness, it is certainly one of the greatest spy films to come along in a very long time. It goes back to the essence of what a spy film used to mean, mystery, intrigue, suspense, and drama. There are no explosions, gun fights or car chases here and certainly no high tech gadgets. With an A-list cast at the height of their skills and carefully crafted screenplay, the film holds your attention all the way through. Highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B007G5K066[/amazon-product]

Purchase Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on Blu-ray Combo Pack at CD Universe

Shop for More Blu-ray Titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

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