OUR KIND OF TRAITOR
While on holiday in Marrakech, an ordinary English couple, Perry (Ewan McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris), befriend a flamboyant and charismatic Russian, Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), who unbeknownst to them is a kingpin money launderer for the Russian mafia.??When Dima asks for their help to deliver classified information to the British Secret Services, Perry and Gail get caught in a dangerous world of international espionage and dirty politics. The couple is propelled on a perilous journey through Paris and Bern, a safe house in the French Alps, to the murky corners of the City of London and to an alliance with the British Government via a ruthless and determined MI6 agent (Damian Lewis).
Review by Louise Keller:
Thank goodness for Stellan Skarsgard, who splashes lashings of colour on this otherwise routine espionage canvas from John Le Carre, although all the ingredients are there for a good yarn involving the Russian Mafia, a money laundering plot and murder most foul. Betrayal and redemption are the themes that are explored in five spectacular settings, while our point of view is filtered through Ewan McGregor’s everyman, who Skarsgard’s Dima picks as ‘a man of honour.’
Le Carre is credited as one of the seven executive producers in this English French co-production in which TV director Susanna White injects an enticing mood. For example, the unexpected nature of the opening sequence that juxtaposes a male dancer in slow motion with a dramatic execution in the snow is striking indeed. The real action begins in Marrakech, where we meet Perry (McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris), a childless couple trying to iron out the rough patch in their marriage. McGregor is charismatic, but not entirely convincing, while Harris is wasted as his barrister wife, who is little more than ornamental.
The all-important scene when Perry and Gail meet Dima is well executed and it is vital that we believe the accidental way in which their relationship begins. Playing the top money launderer for the Mafia, Skarsgaard looks every bit the part: Dima is a bear of a man, who is larger than life in every sense of the word. While he is clearly not a good guy, he is not all bad – after all he is a family man. The other Russians are nasty pieces of work (Grigoriy Dobrygin as ‘the Prince’) and his consigliore (Velibor Topic). We soon become entrenched in the scenario in which an ordinary man (a professor of poetry) becomes the go-between between the Russian Mafia and MI6.
Damian Lewis is terrific as the central MI6 agent, while Jeremy Northan is well cast as his former boss. The Paris scenes are atmospheric, while the Einstein museum in Bern, Switzerland is an interesting location for a key scene. I love the scenes in the French Alps, complete with gorgeous snowy peaks and rolling verdant hills, where the climax plays out. The ending satisfies with English understatement, although I would have liked a few more edge of seat moments. Nonetheless, this is an engrossing film – especially for those with a penchant for espionage a la Le Carre.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The best spy stories are about character, and John Le Carre has always known this. Although this adaptation has a few gaps and the genre is more thriller than spy movie, it is a well produced and made movie sausage – no disrespect intended. It’s commercial and appealing and you probably can consume more of it than is cinematically good for you, but no harm done.
The rather far fetched premise notwithstanding – Russian mafia heavy wants a deal with the British to ensure the safety of his family using financial secrets – the plot provides the filmmakers with a full magazine of movie bullets. Marcelo Darvos delivers a terrific score that does its job with purpose.
Of the uniformly excellent cast, Stellan Skarsgård gets my vote for the acting honours as the XXX-size Dima, whose loud and boisterous nature hides a heart of gold. Yeah, really. He has the largest role and makes all the other characters seem muted, but they do their best. As Perry Ewan McGregor does well as the poetry professor sucked into the world of money laundering, as does Naomie Harris as his wife Gail, although she has very little to do. Their marriage is a bit wobbly, but this adventure helps them to reconsider each other.
Perhaps weakest of the characters is The Prince (Grigoriy Dobrygin), given he should be the strongest, and the goons are all predictably goonish. Velibor Topic does lend an air of menacing authority to his role as Emilio Del Oro, The Prince’s Consigliore, but he also has very little to do.
There are some splendid locations and wonderful interiors, all captured on camera with pizazz by Anthony Dod Mantle, while the production design is flawless and wonderfully detailed. Grab the popcorn on the way in.
Email this article
OUR KIND OF TRAITOR (MA15+)
CAST: Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis, Saskia Reeves, Alicia von Rittberg, Jeremy Northam, Mark Stanley, Pawel Szajda?
PRODUCER: Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan
DIRECTOR: Susanna White
SCRIPT: Hossein Amini (novel by John Le CarrŽ)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony Dod Mantle
EDITOR: Tariq Anwar, Lucia Zucchetti
MUSIC: Marcelo Zarvos
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Greenwood
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: StudioCanal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 14, 2016