“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is out now in the UK, December in the US
1973. The opening scene of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” tastes like a can of ox-tail soup washed down with whiskey and 40 fags. A dimly lit flat harbours a clammy conspiracy. Stacks of files list dangerously close to overflowing ashtrays and towering paranoia, “You weren’t followed?” rasps Control chief of MI6 British intelligence. The hooks are well and truly in.
Budapest. Two MiG fighters smash the tranquillity of the establishing shot. These are the swords of the Soviet Gods, rapiers of modernity, the very antithesis of the intelligence officers, scalp hunters, and pavement artists employed to steal their blueprints. Men and women trashed by years in the shadows. Men like Jim Prideaux to whom every bead of sweat, clink of a coffee cup, or creak of leather could be his undoing.
“A man should know when to leave the party.” It’s a very British coup at the cankerous heart of the “Circus” the higher echelons of MI6. Like a drowned rat Control leaves the sinking ship to his rival Percy Alleline smug and overbearing in his victory. Control has failed spectacularly; his attempt to unravel a mole has come apart at the seams. Slithering behind Control is the ophidian George Smiley inscrutable as he slides into his forced retirement.