Totally Traumatized by Tinker Tailor? There’s Help for That.

No, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not incomprehensible.

Not at all. … 

Actually, I found it to be more comprehensible, in some ways, than the miniseries from the 1970s, in which Alec Guinness played Smiley.

Difficult? Sure. Challenging? In ways that remind me of old-fashioned spy film, the movies that asked audiences to lean forward and think fast, the movies that rewarded more than one viewing.

I saw the film with my longtime moviegoing friend Danny Walter, who has never read the book or seen the miniseries, and at the end he just shrugged and said, “I had no trouble. Made sense to me.”

So no, not incomprehensible. Just more difficult for some moviegoers than others.

And I loved it. Loved it.

Great casting. Beautifully shot. Supremely designed, with a style that’s alive with verticals, boxes, and textures. The editing is occasionally awkward, suggesting that a longer cut exists. (I hope so!)

I want to see a whole series with Gary Oldman as Smiley. He’s just masterful. And Benedict Cumberbatch is strong as his right-hand man.

If you were baffled by the film, well, there’s help for that.

Film critic David Bordwell has just posted a guide to navigating the labyrinth.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.