I found myself watching Tomas Alfredson’s 2011 spy thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy this evening. The plot of John Le Carré’s original novel of the same name is a wonderfully atmospheric sprawling thing that twists and turns like cigar smoke in a club room. A whole generation of Le Carré fans was spoilt by Alec Guinness’s brilliant portrayal of the main protagonist, Smiley, in a 1979 BBC mini-series. Spread over seven parts, the series had the time to familiarise its viewers with the espionage slang, extended cast and complicated plot. Not so the film, though the scriptwriters clearly made valiant efforts to condense the plot whilst not losing the atmospherics. And it is not that Gary Oldman does not give an excellent performance as a world-weary Smiley; it’s just that my generation can’t help but compare him with Guinness’s portrayal (fueled by nostalgia, no doubt). And is it possible, I wondered, for people who never experienced the Cold War to understand just why intelligence services became such obsessive nests of intrigue and counter-intrigue? I watched the film with two youngsters and they said they had enjoyed it and had liked the plot’s portrayal of paranoia and trust and distrust, so I had better shut up.