Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 4K UHD Blu-ray review
Studiocanal is marking the tenth anniversary of Tomas Alfredson’s Bafta-winning Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with the release of a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc. John le Carré’s classic tale of treachery and espionage can be enjoyed anew, with stunning, fresh artwork by Matt Taylor, plus bonus features including Alfredson in conversation with Mark Kermode, and video essays on the film.
Set at the peak of the Cold War in 1973, the plot centres around George Smiley, former senior official in the British Intelligence Service. Having been reluctantly retired following the failure of an operation, he is pulled back into the MI6 Circus to uncover a Soviet mole. Gary Oldman stars in a brilliantly acted two hours of suspense and subterfuge, ably backed up by a star cast featuring Kathy Burke, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Ciarán Hinds, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Konstantin Khabensky, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Roger Lloyd Pack and Mark Strong.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was shot on 35mm using Panavision Panaflex cameras and Panavision Primo lenses. This new 4K restoration from original camera materials is presented at a native 3840 x 2160p resolution image with a fixed aspect ratio of 2.39:1 that uses 10-bit video depth, High Dynamic Range in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision flavours, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec.
The visual improvement is there, though it’s not a mind-blowing upgrade, not least because of the context: the original film’s subdued colour palette creates the texture of the film’s world in muted, natural tones, but the HDR and WCG in this version bring just a little bit more richness and detail. The colour spectrum is augmented in 4K HDR, with more developed top and bottom ends (shadows are darker, highlights are brighter). The new visuals complement the period aesthetic, with the obvious grain perfectly rendered, and fine detail such as beads of sweat, fabric and strands of hair appearing beautifully sharp.
The film’s original soundtrack is an undeniable asset, with a score by Alberto Iglesias that enhances the drama effectively. Here, the subtle improvement in quality allows the music to complement the activity on screen without jarring, with increased crispness and depth. In terms of dialogue, the sound is always transparent, focused quite firmly on the central speaker and prominent, though not overbearing in the mix. Ambient sound isn’t a priority here, but that’s in keeping with the era captured.
The bonus features
The extras for this release are included on the disc, with material from earlier releases reprised, including audio commentary from Alfredson and Oldman. Alongside the 37-minute director interview mentioned earlier, there is content from critic Jason Solomons and film historian Matthew Sweet, as well as an interview with Le Carré’s biographer Adam Sisman to make a comprehensive deep-dive into the story and production.
The editorial unit
Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy is available in 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from 6th December 2021.