When a movie has an ensemble packed with a certain level of well-known, well-respected actors it's usually for one of several reasons: 1 - it's an ensemble rom-com (ex: Love, Actually), 2 - it's a really famous story that famous people want to be part of (ex: Harry Potter), or 3 - the level of fame of each of the actors is equivalent so you don't know who will actually survive (ex: No Country for Old Men). Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TTSS) falls into Category 3, with a cast stacked beyond most thrillers. The benefit of this amazing cast (Oscar nominees John Hurt and Gary Oldman, Oscar winner Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds (who is AMAZING in USA's "Political Animals in his send-up of Clinton) is that you have no idea who will come out on top at the end.
Hurt plays "Control", the head of British Intelligence in the early 1970s. After a mission goes really poorly (capture of an asset), Control and his second in command George Smiley (Oldman) are forced to retire. Several years later, the Intelligence service is being questioned for some of its expenses and other financial practices (which they refuse to explain). This brings on an inquiry of what really went wrong in that last mission. Control has passed away, so they bring back Smiley to try to figure out what happened. He has a few people still on the inside (Cumberbatch) that can help him question all of the staff working that night. It leads them to believe there must be a mole in the system. Smiley has to figure out who it might be.
This movie is for those with a good attention span. There's a very short gun battle, and then a LONG, fairly complicated plot and acting driven story that tries to unravel a good mystery that doesn't really end with a bang. There are long sequences where you get to watch Oldman think through what he's just learned. And other sequences where we see people conversing in other languages (hoping to give something away). Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. The movie is based on a famous book by John le Carre The plot was complicated enough to make you really sit up and pay attention, and the acting was strong enough that you're engrossed in wanting to figure it all out. *Fair warning - I NEVER guess the ends of mysteries. I'm rarely right, and I tend to fall for everything. So if you're someone who can guess the end of stories, you might have seen the bad guy coming, but I sure as hell didn't. The period piece nature of the film doesn't hit you over the head, men's fashion hasn't changed so much that you'd necessarily notice they're dressed too differently (yes, at moments it screams '70s) but what you definitely have to hold on to throughout the film is that the British and the Americans were TRYING to work together to stave off the Russians. However, they're spies, so they don't actually trust one another. And the number of double agents, moles, good secrets, bad secrets, etc. is part of the confusion. So trust no one.