When a Soviet mole is believed to have been planted at the top of the Circus, the British intelligence service, old pro George Smiley (Alec Guinness) is called back in action… About as far from a James Bond movie as you can get, this miniseries portrays the art of spycraft as one based on meticulous investigation and prodding conversations rather than shootouts and nifty gadgets. Uncovering this specific mole takes time. Not always compelling, but a carefully constructed story about a deeply compromised spy organization and the actors are always at the top of their game, with Guinness perfectly embodying this veteran coming in from the cold.
1979-Britain. Made for TV. 315 min. Color. Produced by Jonathan Powell. Directed by John Irvin. Teleplay: Arthur Hopcraft. Novel: John le Carré. Music: Geoffrey Burgon. Cast: Alec Guinness (George Smiley), Michael Jayston (Peter Guillam), Anthony Bate (Oliver Lacon), George Sewell, Bernard Hepton, Ian Richardson… Joss Ackland, Patrick Stewart.
Trivia: Originally shown in seven episodes. Remade as a feature film, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011). Followed by Smiley’s People (1982).
Last word: “It’d be unlikely that the BBC would commission the series today. We — the producer, the writer and myself — always thought it would have been nice to show part of the film every night for a week rather than once a week for several weeks, though I know that in America PBS has shown it as one continuous stream. I can’t imagine the BBC committing themselves to being that ambitious now. For instance, our series was the first time the BBC made a classic series on film. Normally, they would have filmed internal shots in a studio, but I pointed out this would have a been a waste of Alec Guinness’ talents.” (Irvin, Wall Street Journal)