Smiley's People (TV Mini-Series 1982)

TV Mini-Series   |    |  Drama, Mystery


Episode Guide
Smiley's People (1982) Poster

The murder of a Soviet defector forces his old handler, British spymaster George Smiley, out of retirement. His investigation leads to an old nemesis, the Soviet spymaster known only as Karla. This will be their final dance.

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8.6/10
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  • Smiley's People (1982)
  • Smiley's People (1982)
  • Alec Guinness in Smiley's People (1982)
  • Alec Guinness in Smiley's People (1982)
  • Smiley's People (1982)
  • Vladek Sheybal in Smiley's People (1982)

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8 August 2000 | hgallon
Guinness is the definitive Smiley
The recent death of Sir Alec Guinness prompted me to wonder which role in his very long career he should be remembered for, and I believe it should be his portrayal of John Le Carre's master spy and inadequate man, George Smiley.

"Smiley's People", like the earlier "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", derives much of its fascination from its mundane realism. Le Carre, unlike many espionage authors, really knew the setting, the techniques and many of the people. The TV series follows every detail of the novel and cannot be faulted on any grounds of atmosphere.

The cast list has a plethora of famous names, some so heavily made up and convincingly acted as to be unrecognisable as themselves. Guinness's gelid tones and painstakingly slow gestures manage to put them all, even the bubbly Bernard Hepton and Beryl Reid, in the shade. Especially in the final scene, where all Smiley's friends and supporters are practically dancing with joy, Guinness's studied absence of emotion dominates.

Few corporations other than the BBC would dare drag a 200-page novel out to over 4 hours of TV time, and very few actors other than Sir Alec Guinness could have held the viewer fascinated throughout such a marathon.

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