US Release Date: 07-01-2016
Directed by: Susanna White
- Ewan McGregor, as
- Naomie Harris, as
- Stellan Skarsgård, as
- Damian Lewis, as
- Khalid Abdalla, as
- Velibor Topic, as
- Emilio Del Oro
- Alicia von Rittberg, as
- Mark Gatiss, as
- Billy Matlock
- Mark Stanley, as
- Jeremy Northam, as
- Aubrey Longrigg
- Grigoriy Dobrygin, as
- The Prince
- Marek Oravec, as
- Katia Elizarova, as
- Christian Brassington, as
- Secretary to the Cabinet
- John le Carré as
- Museum Guard in Bern
Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris in Our Kind of Traitor.
With its common man caught up in the world of espionage plot, there are echoes of Hitchcock in this adaptation of the 2010 John le Carre novel of the same name. Its lack of action, emphasis on dialogue and characterization, makes it an odd summer release, but still a mostly entertaining film.
Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris play married couple Perry and Gail who are on vacation in Marrakech to work through some marital troubles. One night Perry meets Dima (Skarsgard) in a bar and the two strike up an odd friendship. Dima is a flamboyant Russian, who it turns out is a money launderer for the Russian mafia. Due to a recent change of power in the mafia, Dima wants out of the business and he wants to take his family to London. He enlists Perry's help in carrying some information to the British authorities and for Perry to be his liaison as he negotiates his defection. Although Perry and especially Gail are reluctant participants, they begin to develop genuine affection for Dima's family and find that helping them helps their own relationship.
One of the film's biggest problems is that although Skarsgard plays Dima as a larger than life, family loving, character, he's still a major figure in the mafia, which doesn't exactly make him the most sympathetic of characters. He's looking to quit because his and his family's life is in danger, but were it not for this, it's apparent that he would happily continue his illegal activities. He's more likable than the new boss of the mafia who is looking to do the killing, but then anyone would be. I was never completely invested in Dima's future or on the edge of my seat to see if he would make it out alive.
Perry and Gail are more sympathetic, but we don't learn enough about of them to fully understand them or why they would be willing to risk their lives for Dima's family. This is especially true of Gail, who seems, after just one meeting, to suddenly decide that she will go to extremes for Dima's family. Both McGregor and Harris deliver solid performances, but the script never provides quite enough motivation for their behavior. Maybe if it had shown them enjoying the unexpected life of a spy that is thrust upon it might have strengthened my belief in their actions.
Damian Lewis plays Hector, the member of British intelligence to whom Perry delivers Dima's message. As with nearly all John le Carre's character who work as spies, he is sort of the anti-James Bond. Far from a glamorous life of girls and guns, Hector lives a solitary life and spends much of his time arguing with his superiors for permission and funds to operate. In fact, there is very little action anywhere in the film. The only gunfight takes place off camera and is only heard, not seen. Lewis is good in the part, but we learn least of all about him.
Any fan of le Carre or of smartly done espionage films, will find something to enjoy here. It's well acted and shot beautifully in many different locations. However, despite its strengths, it never feels as though it reaches its full potential or draws its audience in emotionally enough. I wanted to see how it would all turn out, but more out of curiosity than because I had to know if Dima and his family would survive.
Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård in Our Kind of Traitor.
I agree that the story never draws you in emotionally as much as it could have. I was rooting for Dima and his family to make it safely to London but only in a casual way. I was always more worried about the safety of Perry and Gail, as they are the true protagonists of the picture. As Scott mentioned, although their marriage is on shaky ground at the start of the film, their relationship heals over the course of this shared adventure. Perry learns to redefine himself as a man, while Gail discovers just how strong her maternal instincts can be.
Visually Our Kind of Traitor looks amazing. The different locales could be straight out of a James Bond or Jason Bourne movie but the way the story unfolds couldn't be any different. As already mentioned, this is much more of a character study than an action movie. It just happens to be set in the world of international espionage.
The script attempts to make a statement about capitalism and greed by calling out certain bankers for knowingly accepting blood money from the mafia. But the point is only briefly touched upon.
The cast is top notch with Stellan Skarsgård stealing most of his scenes. Dima may be a mobster but, like Don Corleone, he's a likable one. He also provides the movie its humor. He first meets a sulking Perry in a restaurant after Gail has left him there alone. Dima tells him, “Don't be a sourpussy.” “Sourpuss.” Perry corrects him. And a friendship is born.
Unlike my brother, I've never ready any of John le Carré's books. I have seen several movie adaptations of his work however, and nearly all of them feature interesting characters. Our Kind of Traitor is no exception. As long as you don't go into it expecting a lot of gun fights, explosions and car chases, you'll most likely enjoy this well-crafted motion picture.
Photos © Copyright StudioCanal (2016)