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You need to watch the best spy thriller of the century before it leaves HBO Max this month

“She told me she had a secret, the mother of all secrets.”

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John le Carré is one of the most successful spy novelists of all time. A former British intelligence agent, his stories explore the moral ambiguity of the men and women who fought on the secret frontlines of the Cold War.

His work has been adapted into countless movies, including The Constant Gardener, The Russian House, and A Most Wanted Man. But arguably the best le Carré filmed arrived in 2011.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy tells the story of one of le Carré’s recurring characters, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a semi-retired spy trying to find a Russian mole embedded at the very top of British intelligence.

This wasn’t the first adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alec Guinness played Smiley in a 1979 BBC series), but director Tomas Alfredson captures the tone and style of le Carré’s beloved story in meticulous detail.

Everything from the foggy scenery to the clothing is pitch-perfect, immediately transporting the audience to 1970s London even as you struggle to follow the movie’s sometimes-impenetrable plot.

Le Carré's story moves relentlessly forward, whether you understand it or not. But ultimately, the payoff is worth it, and the journey’s not bad either.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is streaming on HBO Max through January 31.

This is an adapted version of a longer article. Read the original here.