Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film)

2011 film directed by Tomas Alfredson

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 film set in the bleak days of the Cold War, where espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson. Written by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, based on the novel by John le Carré.
Trust no one. Suspect everyone. (taglines)

George Smiley

  • I met him once. Karla. In fifty-five. Moscow Centre was in pieces. Purge after purge. Half their agents were jumping ship and I traveled around signing them up. Hundreds of them. One of them was calling himself Gerstmann. He was on his way back to Russia, and we were pretty sure he was going to be executed. Plane had a twenty-four hour layover at Delhi, and that's how long I had to convince him to come over to us instead of going home to die. Little room. I'm sitting here... he's sitting there. The Americans had had him tortured. No fingernails. It's incredibly hot. I'm very tired and all I want to do is get this over with and get back home. Things weren't going well with Ann. I give him the usual pitch: come to the West and we can give you a comfortable life, after questioning. Or you can catch your plane and fly home and be shot. "Think of your wife. You have a wife, don't you? I brought you some cigarettes, by the way. Use my lighter. We could arrange for her to join you, we have a lot of stock to trade. If you go back, she'll be ostracized. Think of her. Think about how much she..." Kept harping on about the damn wife. Telling him more about me than... Should have walked out, of course, but for some reason it seemed important to save this one. So I go on. "We are not so very different, you and I. We've both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another's systems. Don't you think it's time to recognize there is as little worth on your side as there is on mine?" ...Never said a word. Not one word.
  • [on Karla] He's a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.
  • [re: Karla] And the next morning he got back on his plane, handed the pack of cigarettes back to me untouched--and this was a chain smoker, mind--and flew off to what he presumed would be his death... He kept my lighter. It was a gift, "From George to Anne. All my love".

Ricki Tarr

  • She told me she had a secret, the mother of all secrets...
  • Everything the Circus thinks is gold is shit, made in Moscow.
  • Ha! That's it, Percy, you keep stalling! I tell you, Ben, we've got some really lousy people in this outfit, I wouldn't trust a fucking one of them!

Connie Sachs

  • [a teenage couple are making out in front of Connie and Smiley] I don't know about you George, but I'm feeling seriously under-fucked!

Bill Haydon

  • I had to pick a side, George. And the West has become so very ugly...
  • [on the phone] As I said, you may fuck me but you still have to call me "Sir" in the morning.
  • [to Smiley] Karla said you were very good, the one we had to worry about. But you do have a blind spot. And if I was known to be Ann's lover, you wouldn't be able to see me straight. And he was right, up to a point.


Control: You weren't followed?
Jim Prideaux: No.
Control: Better come in. Trust no one, Jim. Especially not in the mainstream. Sit down. I understand you still have one Hungarian identity running.
Jim Prideaux: I do.
Control: I want you to go to Budapest. This is not above board. Nobody else knows. They're after my head, Jim-boy. You understand? I have had an offer of service. A Hungarian general wants to come over. I would like you to meet him. He has some information that I need, Jim.
Jim Prideaux: What information?
Control: Treasure. He has the name of the mole the Russians have planted in the British intelligence service, right at the top of the Circus. There's a rotten apple, Jim; we have to find it.

Control: [Control has just signed an official document of the British Intelligence Service.] Would you witness this for me?
Percy Alleline: I wish I could've done more, Control.
Control: You did all you could, Percy. Well, a man should know when to leave the party.
Toby Esterhase: What about Smiley?
Control: Smiley is leaving with me. [Smiley nods to the affirmative.]
Bill Haydon: [having an inaudible conversation with Esterhase. Esterhase then waves mockingly at Control and Smiley, both of whom are leaving 'The Circus'.] You little prick, Esterhase!

[Haydon rides a bicycle into the Circus office.]
Peter Guillam: You got clearance for that?
Bill Haydon: Well, I'm not bloody chaining it up outside. Mind you, probably no better off in here with this bunch of bloody cut-throats, they'll have the gold out of your teeth!

Secretary: Undersecretary Lacon is ready for you, Sir Percy.
Lacon: The treasurer can't understand why can't the intelligence service simply put in a request for a general increase in funding and then you'll account for the spend on your special operation?
Alleline: Operation 'Witchcraft' needs to remain a secret; it's a fiefdom of its own.
Lacon: Yes, that's what's winding us; whole thing's very unaccountable isn't it? This London house that no one knows the address of, is that really necessary?
Alleline: Now more than ever, we need to protect our Soviet source.
Roy Bland: [lights a cigarette.] So where do you propose we meet in a café?
Lacon: The rent and rates on this house have... Doubled.
Bland: We spent millions on nuclear warheads, we're asking for a few thousand for a house. I wonder if Karla has the same problem with the treasury at the Kremlin.
Lacon: Look, nobody underestimates the importance of the jobs you chaps are doing.What happened in Budapest last year... That was a disaster.
Bland: With respect, sir, that wasn't one of your civil servants that got killed, was it? Now this isn't about soldiers in trenches anymore. We're the frontline now...
Alleline: Roy...
Bland: ...for 25 years we've been the only ones standing between them and Karla and Moscow and the third bloody world war!
Lacon: Look, the minister is very pleased with your progress so far. He's less pleased though, with our progress with our American cousins. You see, in their eyes... You're still a leaky ship.

Ricki Tarr: Mr Guillam, I'm sorry I was out for so long.
[Guillam attacks Tarr.]
George Smiley: Ricki's been helping us, Peter! He's been telling us all about his adventures.
Peter Guillam: He's a double, George! There is no mole! Irina's been locked up by Moscow! [turns on Tarr.] I stole that, because of you! I spied on my own, because of him! Do you know how that makes me feel?

Control: I know that Moscow has planted a mole, and I know it is one of five men. [starts placing out chess pieces with photos on them.] Alleline: Tinker. Haydon: Tailor. Bland: Soldier. We leave out "Sailor", too much like "Tailor", and "Rich man" doesn't seem to apply. Esterhase: Poor man.
Jim Prideaux: And the fifth?
Control: Smiley.

George Smiley: I want to talk about loyalty, Toby. Control recruited you, didn't he? He found you starving in a museum in Vienna, a wanted man. He saved your life, I heard. And yet, when the time came... when it came to picking sides between him and Alleline, you didn't hesitate. It's understandable, perhaps, with your war experience. You survived this long, I suppose, because of your ability to change sides, to serve any master.
Esterhase: What's... what's this about, George?
George Smiley: It's about which master you've been serving, Toby.

Control: George! George, get in here! [Smiley enters.] George, sit down. [Smiley sits.] Take a look at this nonsense. Report by Soviet high command on their recent naval exercises in the Black Sea, just what the Admiralty has been begging us for some information on...
Smiley: Where did you get this?
Control: I didn't. Percy and his little cabal walked in with it.
Esterhase: Look, Control...
Control: Shut up!
Haydon: [flicking through document, casually.] Style appalling, blatantly a fabrication from beginning to end. It just could be the real thing.
Smiley: If it's genuine it's gold dust. But its topicality makes it suspect.
Control: Smiley is suspicious, Percy!
Smiley: Where did it come from? What's the access?
Alleline: A new secret source of mine.
Smiley: But how could he possibly have access-
Alleline: He has access to the most sensitive levels of policy making. We've named the operation 'Witchcraft.'
Control: [archly.] Oh, Percy and his pals bypassed us, Smiley. Gone straight to the minister. Percy has been allowed to keep the identity of his new friend TOP secret.
Alleline: The minister agrees with me that too many secrets are blown around here. Too much failure, too many scandals, too little solid intelligence.
Bland: Percy does have a point, Control; we should be fighting Communism, not each other.
Alleline: No, we're losing our reputation, our partners-
Control: Your bloody Yanks!
Alleline: -and we've had enough! There's going to be changes.
Esterhase: We need to decide if we want to be part of the past or part of the future.
Control: I should have left you where I found you.
Esterhase: Look-!
All: Control-!
Control: OUT! ALL OF YOU!
[Alleline, Bland and Esterhase leave. Control glares at Haydon until he too exits, leaving only Smiley and Control.]
Smiley: If Witchcraft is genuine-
Control: Nothing is genuine anymore!

Connie: [She sets down a tea set and George Smiley offers her some Johnny Walker Black Label.] Not supposed to, doctor's orders. [Smiley shakes the bottle, teasing her.] Wicked, wicked George... [After seeing two teenagers making out.] I don't know about you George, but I feel seriously underfucked. [Smiley looks uncomfortable.] I heard Ann left you, again. She doesn't deserve you, George. Not one hair on your head.
Smiley: You left the circus around the same time as Control and I.
Connie: I didn't leave, I was dismissed; chucked out on the rubbish heap.

Connie: [In response to Smiley's questioning.] What does it matter, anyway? Old circus is gone, anyway. [Indicates some old photos.] Here we are: the nursery in our day. Jim Prideaux and Bill Haydon, of course - the inseparables. There's Control himself. All my boys, all my lovely boys. That was a good time, George.
Smiley: It was the war, Connie.
Connie: A real war. Englishman could be proud, then. [Long pause.] So I was right, then; about Polyokov. There is a mole... [Smiley gets up to leave.] If it's bad, don't come back; I want to remember you all as you were.

Tufty Thesinger: [Drunkenly.] You're supposed to have gone. London station has been onto me, wondering what the hell it is you're doing.
Ricky Tarr: [Stops typing, turns slowly.] Fuck off. [Resumes typing.]

Peter Guillam: [on Karla] He went back to die, rather than give in.
George Smiley: And that's how I know he can be beaten. Because he's a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.

The Minister: Witchcraft's information is genuine! It's been gold!
George Smiley: It's just enough glitter amongst the chicken-feed. Control didn't believe in miracles, and he didn't believe in Witchcraft. But you were lazy, and you were greedy, and so you forced him out of the Circus and you let Karla in.

Smiley: Did Karla intend you to be the Chief of the Circus?
Haydon: I'm not his bloody office-boy!
Smiley: [Raises voice.] What are you then, Bill?
Haydon: ...I'm a man who's made his mark.

Smiley: Is there anything you would like me to pass on to Ann?
Haydon: That was nothing personal, George. You have to understand. Karla said that you were good; the one we had to worry about. If I were to known as Ann's lover, he'd figure that you wouldn't be able to see me straight. And he was right, up to a point...
Smiley: Up to a point...


  • Trust no one. Suspect everyone.
  • How do you find an enemy who is hidden right before your eyes?
  • The secret is out.
  • The enemy is within.
  • At the height of the Cold War, only a master spy could be trusted to expose one of their own.



See also