Our Kind of Traitor

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Susanna White

Starring

Ewan McGregor Naomie Harris Stellan Skarsgård

Anticipation.

Room for another John le Carré screen adaptation?

Enjoyment.

Really nicely put together, even if the story falls apart.

In Retrospect.

Susanna White: remember the name.

This Brit spy thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris is a solid calling card for director Susanna White.

The petition to secure Susanna White directing duties on the next Bond movie starts right here. This slick John le Carré adaptation is an exemplary calling card – she even manages to make Ewan McGregor seem like an intriguing screen presence. He plays a university professor called Perry who, unlike archetypal university professors, is always up for some fisticuffs. He’s on holiday with his wife, Gail (Naomie Harris), and in the dog house for cheating with a student.

But the healing process is interrupted when the pair are boozily thrown together with the charismatic Dima (Stellan Skarsgård) who just wants them to hand in an innocent flash drive to UK customs on their way back home. It turns out he’s an accountant for the Russian Mafia, and a recent change of leadership has also resulted in a clearing out of old wood. The UK is the only chance he has to save his family from violent death.

For its first half, the film works like a dream, with the couple placing
their cosy existence and trifling emotional traumas on the back-burner in order to help a man who – indirectly – is responsible for much death and destruction. It’s like advanced couples therapy, displacing lengthy heart-to-hearts with heart-pounding adventure. But then it all falls away, with Harris being swept aside and a quaint, bromantic love affair erupting between Perry and Dima.

The feeling is that White and screenwriter Hossein Amini are trying to force too much story into too little screen time, and so the film’s final 45 minutes are a hot hash of hasty exposition, predictable twists and underwhelming action. If White does happen to get the Bond gig, then she might make for a neat pairing with Damien Lewis, who crops up here as an unflappable, lonely M15 stooge whose love of food and wine present him as an enlightened modern gent.

Published 13 May 2016

Anticipation.

Room for another John le Carré screen adaptation?

Enjoyment.

Really nicely put together, even if the story falls apart.

In Retrospect.

Susanna White: remember the name.

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