Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (TTSS) is one of the most ingenious and engaging movie we encountered in a long time. Leisurely crafted and nuancefully executed, the movie is based on the cold war era espionage book of the same name. Much acclaimed, at the 84th Academy Awards it received three nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Actor (Gary Oldman).
Many others have done a great and better job of reviewing the movie, and paid glowing tributes to it. So I don’t think I can add any significant value by reviewing it again.
- Smiley getting new Glasses: George Smiley gets his new glasses. The scene is prima facie perplexingly trivial. But to our understanding, the scene is there so that the viewer can distinguish between present events with past ones, where Smiley is wearing his old glasses.
- Why Prideux snaps at the school boy: One believes that Prideux was unconsciously seeing his own reflection in the boy and thus surreptitiously grooming him as a protégé. He was coaching the boy in the art of Observation or being a good spy. Remember the scene when he tells him why a man carefully avoiding looking/glancing at their direction despite the din of the school-boys indicates his being “out of ordinary”. Well, when Prideux learns that his BF, HAYDON had betrayed him, he is furious at his own mistake and realizes that if he wasn’t a great spy, he should not initiate his protégé too, in the game of cloak and dagger.
- Why Prideux kills “Bill Haydon”: They were gay lovers, which is why Prideux had confided in HAYDON in the first place. The betrayal thus, was more personal than merely professional. Hence the revenge too was personal.
- Why Prideux kills the bird instead of letting it fly away: It indicates his own frustration with the system, which decided to kill his spying career once he was compromised, even though Prideux considered himself not at fault for his forced retirement.
- The incongruous affair between Ann (Smiley) and HAYDON: Why should Haydon, a high ranker in the “Circus” have an affair with a much older woman (Ann Smiley) and a senior colleague’s wife when his power and position could have easily made him attractive to better (younger and safer) prospects? The answer lies partly with BILL HAYDON’s explanation to Smiley about compromising Smiley’s reason & judgment.
But it also lies partly in the unspoken fact that since HAYDON was gay, for him any physical relation with the opposite sex was essentially equally unappealing. He was only being professional (read professional double agent) .
- The scene with the honeybee in the car: Just shows the calculated thought and economical action style of Smiley. He is prepared to wait for his move, and acts in a surgical, effective but non-dramatic style.
This post was a result of many a lunch discussions with Ashutosh. While the observation credits are shared, the errors should entirely be mine. Also, these are just fan observations and may be different from what the makers would have intended. I must confess, both of us have not read the book so far, but would like to read it at the first given opportunity.