Johnny English aside, British spies can generally be relied upon to deliver high-quality cinema. From Harry Palmer to James Bond (via Austin Powers), fictional sleuths from these fair shores have been mesmerising audiences for decades.
With that in mind, it’s no great surprise that one of the UK’s finest espionage novels has finally made the leap to the big screen. John le Carré’s 1974 Cold War thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has previously been adapted for radio and TV, and it’s now set to make its cinematic debut under the guiding hands of Swedish director of Let The Right One In Tomas Alfredson.
As you’d expect for such an eagerly-anticipated project, the cast list is positively groaning with top British talent. As well as Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Kick-Ass’s Mark Strong, Colin Firth arrives fresh from Oscar glory to play agent Bill Haydon, and Tom Hardy makes a pre-Dark Knight Rises appearance as Ricki Tarr.
But most excitingly, as you can see from our exclusive picture (image 1), Gary Oldman (right) takes centre stage as MI6 curmudgeon George Smiley, who is plucked out of retirement by his former employers to sniff out a Soviet mole. Oldman has already dubbed Smiley “his greatest role ever”, and — considering his previous roles include Count Dracula, Sid Vicious and Commissioner Jim Gordon — this has more than whetted our appetite.
Regrettably, there’s still a good two months until the film’s release, but if the strength of its roster is anything to go by, Tinker… could leave Bond 23 with a lot to live up to come 2012.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is at cinemas from 16 September