Writes Roger Ebert: The movie is based on John Le Carre's 1974 novel, which redefined modern spy fiction and inspired an ambitious 1979 BBC adaptation. There was reason to believe Le Carre knew his subject. In the real world, where his real name is David Cornwall, he was one of the British spies who was betrayed by Kim Philby, the notorious MI6 operative who was a double agent for the Soviets. In the fictional version, MI6 is headed by Control (John Hurt), who studies a series of intelligence leaks and becomes convinced there's a mole in the agency; the nature of the intelligence suggests it must come from high up, and Control narrows his list of suspects to five men close to him.
The movie introduces them one by one, each played by a familiar face in a film cast with iconic British actors. "Tinker" is Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), "Tailor" is Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), "Soldier" is Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), "Poor Man" is Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and "Beggarman" is George Smiley (Gary Oldman), Control's trusted lieutenant. If you're wondering what happened to "Spy," that would be whoever turns out to be the mole.
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