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New Release Review - OUR KIND OF TRAITOR

A couple volunteer to help a Russian money-launderer expose a crooked alliance between Britsh politicians and the Russian Mafia.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Susanna White

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgard, Naomie Harris



Better suited to a two-night TV mini series, Our Kind of Traitor is very much a character drama, and it boasts a cast well up to that task (Lewis is a standout as a very British spy), but the story's players are paper thin at best, caricatures at worst. Our Kind of Traitor isn't my kind of thriller, and it probably won't be yours.



It's hard to believe it's over half a century since the first cinematic John le Carre adaptation, 1965's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, hit the screen. The British novelist has found himself in vogue once more, largely due to the acclaim bestowed upon Tomas Alfredson's 2011 big screen adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Since then we've seen Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles in A Most Wanted Man, and the recent hit BBC mini series of The Night Manager, featuring what many consider Tom Hiddleston's audition for the role of 007. If screen renderings of le Carre were on a healthy run, they've pulled up with hamstring worries with this mediocre rendition of his 2010 novel.


Borrowing heavily from Hitchcock's second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, the story begins in Marrakesh, where a young British couple are holidaying in an attempt to save their failing relationship. When Gail (Naomie Harris) leaves dinner early to take a business call, her partner Perry (Ewan McGregor) finds himself the target of the affections of loud mouthed Russian Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), who whisks him off to a lavish party. When Perry interrupts some rough coitus between a Russian mobster and prostitute, Dima is impressed by his noble manner, and spills the secrets of his employment as a money launderer for the Russian Mafia. Guilt tripped by the possibility that Dima will be murdered along with his family, Perry agrees to take a USB key, containing details of the Russian mob's involvement with British politicians, back to the UK and hand it over to MI6. When he does so, MI6 agent Hector (Damian Lewis) further pressures Perry into becoming more heavily involved in Dima's affairs.


"Wait, I thought this was about a couple?" you might find yourself asking. "What about Gail?" "What about her?" would be the film's answer. Naomie Harris finds herself saddled with a sickeningly regressive female character here, one who serves only to initially, and quite understandably, tut tut at the male protagonist's heroic intentions, only to later come around and realise she's got a keeper. Gail performs no actual function in the narrative; Perry could have been holidaying alone in Marrakesh and it wouldn't make one bit of difference to how the rest of the film plays out. Compare this to the role played by Doris Day in the aforementioned Hitchcock thriller and it's disturbing how many backward steps we've taken in the six decades since. That the film is directed by a woman, Susanna White, makes it all the more disappointing.


Harris's role may be the film's most problematic issue, but as a thriller its biggest problem is its complete lack of tension or suspense. We never feel Perry is in any real danger, despite the best attempts of McGregor, who does a commendable, if futile job of portraying the wide-eyed naivete of his character. The movie lacks a tangible antagonist, and shows its cards far too early regarding the true intentions of Dima and Hector, characters that could have been used far more effectively by keeping us guessing as to their trustworthiness.

Better suited to a two-night TV mini series, Our Kind of Traitor lacks the sort of physical set-pieces of a Robert Ludlum adaptation. It's very much a character drama, and it boasts a cast well up to that task (Lewis is a standout as a very British spy), but the story's players are paper thin at best, caricatures at worst. Our Kind of Traitor isn't my kind of thriller, and it probably won't be yours.
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