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Is it Time to Rewatch Smiley's People?

‘In Le Carré’s Tinker, Smiley spends an awful lot of time peering at dusty old files, but here Smiley goes face to face with actual people’.

Tony Manning from The Guardian has taken the release of the film adaptation of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, and the suggestion that a sequel may be forthcoming, as a prompt to re-watch the BBC adaptation of ‘Smiley’s People’, available now on DVD:

‘Such is the complexity of Smiley’s People, you could easily […] get lost; indeed, during its original airing, Terry Wogan held regular Smiley’s People sessions on his radio show, with people phoning in to explain what they thought was going on.

There is one thing you can be sure of, though: George Smiley’s cleverer than you. But is he clever enough to outsmart his foes? The drama kicks off with Alec Guinness out on windy old Hampstead Heath again, just as he was in the BBC’s original and spellbinding 1979 Tinker series, wearing Smiley’s trademark permafrost specs, Homburg hat and colourless overcoat, poking about in the undergrowth with his brolly. Yanked out of retirement to tidy up the offing of an elderly Estonian émigré, Smiley is soon poking about in the Secret Service’s undergrowth, too, spiralling off into an obsessive quest to nail his nemesis, Karla, the Soviet spymaster who planted the mole in Tinker. And this time round, Smiley proves not just dogged but ruthless.

“Give it up, George,” says pickled old spook Connie Sachs, played by the fantastic Beryl Reid. “It’s grey. Half-devils against half-angels. Nobody knows who the goodies are.” A truer word was never slurred. Is smug official Oliver Lacon, who tries to bully Smiley into a cover-up and puts a tail on him, a goodie? And what about the Circus’s boss, the pompous Belgravia cockney Saul Enderby, who casually sacks an impertinent pawn? Then there’s Lauder Strickland, Enderby’s toadying number two. Smiley’s polite but pained contempt for all three is answer enough – and a treat to behold.

In Le Carré’s Tinker, Smiley spends an awful lot of time peering at dusty old files, but here Smiley goes face to face with actual people. Whacking a massive carbon footprint across Europe, the plot unfolds through a series of interviews, with Smiley in forensic mode, grilling a kaleidoscopic range of characters: dodgy Hungarian art dealers, moralising strip-club owners, German hippies, bungling Soviet diplomats and schizophrenic nymphomaniacs. […]

Other treasures include a young Alan Rickman as a hotel receptionist, Ian Fleming’s niece Lucy as a Circus official clamping her jaw as she’s groped by Enderby, and a nail-biting denouement at a murky Berlin Wall crossing. What do we actually know? Fact: it’ll probably take a few more viewings to be certain’.

Read the full article in The Guardian here

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