28 September 2011
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Travesty

Went to see the new Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy movie the other day.  It is difficult to watch this having previously read the book and watched the TV series.  The TV series seared itself into the memory.  So, I am not sure if I understood things through watching the film or because I had previously seen the TV series.  So, I won’t talk about how easy to follow it may or may not be.

Things that definitely differ from the book:

  1. The Americans don’t have Karla tortured
  2. Peter Guillam is not gay
  3. Peter Guillam drives a sports car not a saloon
  4. Jim Prideaux is shot in Czechoslovakia not Hungary
  5. Ricky Tarr goes out to Hong Kong, not Istanbul
  6. Ricky Tarr’s secret is not accepting money from the Russians but trying to get his family to safety
  7. Ricky Tarr starts the fight not Guillam.
  8. Irina is not shot in front of Prideaux

Things that probably differ from the book (I don’t have time to check):

  1. There was no Christmas Party
  2. Smiley does not make any promises to Tarr
  3. I don’t think anyone thought Prideaux had been killed.
  4. Tufty Thesinger is not killed
  5. Haydon is not shot. 

Not all of these changes are important but they combine to significantly change the meaning of the book.  Where, in the book, there was a clear distinction made between East and West, the movie manages to muddy that distinction.  This is unforgivable.  Communism was appalling.  It killed and impoverished millions.  Sure, the West wasn’t perfect.  The book acknowledges this in spades but always makes it clear that the West is much, much better.

Other faults:

  • Boy, it drags.  It even manages to feel slower than the 1970s TV series which in terms of running time was much longer.  Way too much effort goes into creating a world of brown, orange and grey and then taking long, lingering shots of it.
  • Ciaran Hands (playing Roy Bland) doesn’t, if I recall correctly, say a word.  Not a word.  What a waste.

Things that I am pretty sure they did have in the 1970s but don’t appear in the movie:

  • Flares

Things they got right:

  • Gary Oldman
  • Colin Firth

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