I’m halfway through the novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I’ll have a one-sentence Goodreads review when I’m through (it’s all I can manage with two blogs to update and my real job to do besides!), but I’m already anticipating my rewatches of both the 2011 movie and the 1979 TV miniseries.
As I read, I see Alec Guinness as the semi-retired spy George Smiley. Plump, sour, short and shuffling, but with a deeply focused mind. I enjoyed Gary Oldman’s performance in the 2011 film, but he’s just too cool for the role; Guinness’s stiff portrayal over the seven-episode miniseries feels truer to the text.
The betrayed and grounded spy Jim Prideaux was a highlight of the 2011 film for me. There he was played by Mark Strong, whom I came to like after seeing him in the otherwise dull Ridley Scott Robin Hood (2010). I don’t remember much about Prideaux’s character in the 1979 series, but in the novel he’s the standout figure. He’s really not much like Strong: he seems stouter, more self-assured, less cerebral. He’s a gearhead, a game hunter, and thoroughly English. So is the whole vibe of the book, and in a more old-fashioned way than I’d expected; quaint and pastoral aren’t words I thought I’d use to describe Tinker, Tailor after seeing its two hard-boiled and noirish adaptations, but that’s how it reads.
I liked the 2011 film slightly better than the 1979 miniseries on my first viewing of each several years ago, with the decisive factors being the cast and the art design; that garish 70s orange in Smiley’s office at the end is delightful. I wouldn’t be surprised if that order changes after I finish the novel and give them both another look.