Set in early 70's, George Smiley(Gary Oldman) and "Control"(John Hurt) the head of British Intelligence nicknamed "Circus" resigns after a clandestine operation in Budapest goes haywire. One of their operatives Jim Prideaux(Mark Strong) is shot by the Hungarian Intelligence. Control and Smiley walks out the building to the relief of their coworkers - Percy Alleline(Toby Jones), Bill Haydon(Colin Firth), Roy Bland(Ciaran Hinds) and Toby Esterhase(David Dencik). Before long but after Control's death, Smiley is contacted to conduct an operation to find a Soviet mole. The mole is one among the four people who were happy to see him and Control walk away in shame.
In this adaptation of eponymous novel by John le Carré ;the director Tomas Alfredson brings in the camera very close to his actors in sync with the author's narrative style of John le Carré. The camera is so close to the actors that you can even see the slightest eyebrow raise clearly. This helps in building intrigue and suspense in many scenes. There are no break-ins by performing superhuman acrobatics. Despite this, the director is able to generate anxiety in minds of the audience during ordinary break-ins with a combination of brilliant acting, photography and music. The movie is about loyalty, treachery, deceit and redemption. The emphasis is on emotions and interactions based in reality. There is no romance associated with the job. It is dangerous. But you work in a dull environment surrounded by even duller colleagues. The flip side of the movie is the pace in the initial part of the movie where nothing happens and also the flashbacks to the past which confuses anyone who has not read the novel or is unfamiliar with le Carré style.
Performance wise, the movie belongs to Gary Oldman. For me, Gary Oldman is an actor who can't be idle. He is moving his face, his hands or the body constantly and suddenly. Now, think of a Gary Oldman where all these movements are minimal and measured. That is how he plays Smiley. The dialogues are minimal. His body movements are very slow and calculated. This in itself is an interesting watch. The scenes to watch out for are when he extracts information out from his former colleagues - one cajoling with a bottle of liquor and the other threatening extradition. Another scene is when he asks his team member to do an illegal activity and also instructs for not revealing Smiley's name if caught in the act.
Must watch. Keep in mind Smiley is no James Bond. You will not find guns and girls in here. But you will find a good spy movie told realistically.