A British couple on a romantic holiday inadvertently get involved with a high profile money launderer for the Russian mafia, who seeks asylum for himself and his family in the UK in exchange for crucial information in spy thriller Our Kind of Traitor, based on the book of the same name by bestselling novelist John le Carré.
Our Kind of Traitor is a gripping, if by-the-numbers thriller that works well enough to justify not really breaking any new ground.
Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård is an odd choice to play a big time Russian mobster and while his attempt at an accent is almost cartoonishly fake, it’s consistent enough that, when combined with his stellar (some pun intended) performance, can pass off as convincing. There’s an internal logic to his speech pattern and mannerisms that gives his fake accent an amusing, and honestly pretty effective sense of authenticity and authority.
Ewan McGregor plays professor Perry Makepeace, the man who gets swept up along for the ride along with his wife Gail (Naomie Harris).Our Kind of Traitor effectively establishes the turmoil in their marriage that plays a part into how they end up trying to smuggle a Russian mobster into London with the help of MI6. It’s not a seamless transition from poetry professor to would be action man, but it’s grounded and believable.
The real star here is Damian Lewis as MI6 agent Hector, the one in charge of whole operation. He steals just about every scene he’s in with a quiet, wry sense of energy.
Director Susanna White captures a certain kind of unease that persists throughout most of the movie. Uncomfortable angles, as well as odd reflections and distortions give Our Kind of Traitor a palpable tension and at the very least always keep things visually interesting.
There is an unnecessary amount of nudity at random points in the film that simply doesn’t add anything. Our Kind of Traitor is dark and gritty enough as is, making the addition of naked people and sexual violence feel cheap and distasteful.
The real problem is that the movie never really takes any risks. The plot is predictable and all the major plot points are telegraphed well in advance. It’s never boring, but it never soars, either. It’s a functional thriller that seems content with just being good enough. The ending in particular is somewhat of a disappointment, wrapping things up a bit too neatly. Our Kind of Traitor is a perfectly fine spy thriller with a solid cast, but very little more and very little less.
Dir: Susanna White
Scr: Hossein Amini (based on the book by John le Carré)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Mark Gatiss
Prd: Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Our Kind of Traitor is out on Blu-Ray and DVD from the 12th September.