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Customer Review

218 of 221 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drama as it should be, 21 Jun. 2006
This review is from: Smiley's People [1982] [DVD] (DVD)
Flawless. And I don't say that about many things. This is what the BBC used to do so well, and quality never dates. Smiley's People, and it's illustrious predecessor remain two of the all-time great dramas. They take an exclusive place amongst the best performed pieces I have ever seen. No, I won't review the story: I don't think that's possible in a few words. Suffice to say former head of the Circus (MI6) is brought out of retirement to clean up the mess caused by the murder of a former associate, and in so doing, is pitted once again against his opposite number in (we assume) the KGB.

The acting is a masterclass. Perfection. Not one jarring note, not one slightly questionable piece, even in the most minor roles. The late Sir Alec Guiness naturally ocupies the most attention, as is right and proper, but the supporting cast were outstanding as well. I hear complaints in some quarters that the role of George Smiley was 'too easy' for Sir Alec. If this is too easy, I'd love to know what difficult is supposed to be. The role is superb, but it required an unique talent to be convincing, and it is a tribute to Guiness's mesmerising ability that he made it seem so natural. Small wonder people thought he made it look easy: he did. That doesn't mean it was though.

The direction is also a statement work. Pacing is slow, as it should be to do this complex and convoluted story justice. If you're expecting something simple, with lots of fights, guns, chases and such like, or have a 2 minute attention-span, look somewhere else. You have to be patient. If you are, you will be slowing drawn in, and it will not let go. It is beautifully shot, beautifully lit, and the audio levels (always very tricky to get right) are spot on and unobtrusive: you just take them for granted.

The DVD presentation is excellent, though I wish the disks were easier to extract from the long central clip in the box -they bend worryingly, which I'm always uncomfortable with. Still, a little care should prevent problems, but I call upon manufacturers to please mend their ways in this respect. There are few extras -an interview with le Carre is about your lot. That doesn't bother me though -it's the program I wanted, not the extras.

The print transfer is excellent, with little grain, and few digital nasties. The audio has been equally well cleaned up, and is crystal clear.

If you like the sound of the above, or simply like good drama, or the best performances you are ever likely to see, buy without hesitation. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Jul 2009 15:55:51 BDT
Jack Warner says:
I'm going to buy this series based on your review alone. You speak my mind when you write about people with two minute attention spans who need fast paced, guns and blazing action to keep them watching. did you see the new survivors series put out by the BBC? Not a patch on the original series as it was too fast, everything happening in such a short space of time. Good review!

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Oct 2009 23:51:28 GMT
S. Lindgren says:
Thanks for the feedback, and more importantly, I hope you enjoy the series. Not that I think there's much likelihood of you not doing so, as you obviously appreciate good acting and direction, so you're onto a winner here. Yes, I did see the new Survivors. Completely agree; too much being condensed into a short run; the original was much better. Budgeting again I imagine -at least the performances were good. Zoe Tapper in particular is one of the best young actresses out there at the moment.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2009 07:42:48 GMT
Ben Koerner says:
Sorry to be a dissenting voice here, but Smiley's People was a shocking let down after Tinker Tailor.

Ridiculous plot (le Carre's fault) and cringe-inducing acting - too many bad faux-European accents. Can you seriously tell me you didn't have a problem with Toby Esterhase forgetting how to speak Oxbridge English and spouting dreadful mock Hungarian instead?

No wonder Guinness refused the Smiley role when they offered it to him again.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2010 05:45:10 BDT
To Ben K.:

Why are you sorry to be a dissenting voice here? What do you really mean? The rest of your review does not sound to me as if you are sorry. With the question - and especially its tone - in your second paragraph, you don't sound sorry at all. You sound, I think, quite arrogant and condescending: "Can you seriously tell me you didn't have . . . "
You find the plot ridiculous, blame it on the author, and pour scorn on anyone who might dare to disagree. You offer no proof, no details, no demonstrations of how ridiculous the plot is.
The book has been out quite a long time, and the video series has been around for many years also. Now, in 2009, you tell us that the plot is ridiculous - full stop, period, end. Even if you have read the book before, I suggest that you read it carefully two or three times; study it, and write up each development, twist, or turn that you find ridiculous. Then do the same for the film. And when you have organized all of your proofs and demonstrations, come back and write us another essay. What a boon that will be to all the fans of this story - in book and film - who have praised it over the years, and still (in their ignorance of course) continue to do so. Of course there is the other possibility that you might learn something and change your opinion.

Posted on 4 Aug 2010 18:10:21 BDT
atti says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on 22 May 2011 23:27:41 BDT
Yes, this looks as if it was well worth my spending £5.49 or whatever it was, now all I need do is wait for the post to bring it. I've already got 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy : Complete BBC Series [1979] [DVD] and from what you say 'Smiley's People' looks as if it will be every inch as good. 'Tinker Tailor...' is I think similar - slow-developing rather convoluted plot but, as you say, so well worth waiting for and, yes, you DO again need more than a 2-minute attention span! Full marks to the superbly understated Smiley himself (Sir Alec Guiness).

With regard to the 'long central clip' - thanks for the warning - I wonder if it would be any good getting an empty DVD case or cases without the annoying clip to keep the precious disks in. I'll look around.
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