Smiley's People (1982 BBC miniseries)
Screenplay by: John Hopkins (based on the novel by John le Carre)
Directed by: Simon Langton
Starring: Alec Guinness, Bernard Hepton, Eileen Atkins, Anthony Bate, Michael Byrne, Bill Paterson, Michael Lonsdale, Barry Foster, and Patrick Stewart
Synopsis: When an aging British Intelligence agent is murdered and no one seems to care, George Smiley takes it upon himself to find out what happened. As the pieces of the puzzle slowly come together, Smiley discovers that his old Russian nemesis may be involved.
Another excellent miniseries adaptation from the BBC! Just like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the movie closely follows the book and captures the excitement of Smiley's career-long quest to catch the elusive Karla. I love how both the books and the movies are much more realistic takes on the classic spy story. George Smiley is not at all like Ian Fleming's 007. James Bond may be entertaining as hell, but he's nothing like a real spy; George Smiley, on the other hand, is a just like anyone else, toiling day in and day out at an important, albeit unglamorous job. Smiley's People is my favorite book of the Karla trilogy; I love the way le Carre ties up many of Smiley's loose ends, but doesn't do so with such neatness that it becomes unrealistic (because we all know life's problems don't get boxed up into nice little packages).
Alec Guinness was wonderful yet again, as was the rest of the ensemble cast. It was nice to see the very talented Eileen Atkins as Madame Ostrakova. Her Russian accent was extremely convincing; if I didn't already know she was from London, I would've thought she was really Russian. I was a little disappointed that Michael Jayston did not return as Peter Guillam. I got used to seeing Jayston's Guillam in TTSS, so when Michael Byrne -- who looks pretty much the opposite of Jayston -- came on screen, it was rather jarring. However, I will admit that Byrne did a decent job and I was okay with him by the final episode.
I'm not sure when this happened, but at some point while watching this movie I fell in love with the character of Toby Esterhase. He's just such a likable character and he obviously feels a lot of affection for and loyalty toward Smiley. Toby was much less enjoyable in TTSS, but now that he's not working for the Circus, he no longer has to pretend to be an English gentleman. As he says in the movie (and book), he's gone back to what he really is: "a cheap Austro-Hungarian in expensive clothes." I love that line. I don't remember liking Toby quite so much while reading the novel, so I think the way Bernard Hepton plays him is what makes the character so compelling. If you're unfamiliar with Hepton's work, he's been in about a million BBC movies and TV series, as well as the A&E version of Emma.
If the upcoming big screen version of TTSS is successful (I honestly think it will be), I would love to see them follow it up with a remake Smiley's People.