VOD film review: Our Kind of Traitor
James R | On 15, Sep 2016
Director: Susanna White
Cast: Carlos Acosta, Radivoje Bukvic, Stellan Skarsgård
John le Carré turns 85 this year, but his novels are still popping up on our screens like he’s a bright young thing who’s just hit the big time. No matter what the decade, le Carré is our kind of writer – something that places him in a rare class, alongside octogenarian author Alice Munro.
This latest adaptation is courtesy of Hossein Amini, who previously adapted Patricia Highsmith’s The Two Faces of January for the screen, and brings the same sweaty, claustrophobic tension to this tale. It stars McGregor and Harris as Perry and Gail, a married couple on holiday in Morocco, where he finds himself approached by Dima (Skarsgård), a man with a pretty family, an impressive house – and, it turns out, a USB drive with the names of Russian mafia members and British officials involved in some dodgy, lucrative deals. He asks Perry to smuggle the information back to the UK and negotiate him sanctuary in exchange, so that his wife and kids are safe from The Prince, the clan’s new ruler.
What follows is a typical cat-and-mouse affair, with people meeting in secret across the globe, and our everyman at the heart of it mostly looking dazed and confused. It’s an enjoyably old-fashioned thriller, which relies more on conversations and calm confrontation for suspense than explosions and shootouts.
The cast are a prefect fit. McGregor, whose CV only continues to become more impressively diverse, again proves one of the country’s most underrated actors, easily slipping into the shoes of his poetry teacher with a passion to do the right thing. Skarsgård, meanwhile, manages to avoid teetering into cliche as the menacing, charismatic wolf of the piece – the polar opposite to Damian Lewis’ almost unbearably uptight MI6 man.
Susanna White shoots their encounters with a beautiful eye, confidently upping the cool by throwing in stylish compositions and striking colours – not to mention background nods to real life incidents and people, such as Alexander Litvinenko. The problem, though, is that the film arrives hot on the heels of two other le Carré adaptations – The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston, and A Most Wanted Man, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Both are stupendous pieces of work, boasting incredible central performances, particularly from Hoffman. Compared to them, the character of Perry feels disappointing thin – as the film nears its finale, you briefly wonder why he’s continuing with this escapade. If he were to duck out, would it make a difference to the plot? It’s to White and Amini’s credit that they manage to keep things taut enough to keep your mind from wandering. The result is not a premium slice of espionage, but this is an efficient affair, that races along with just enough class to keep spy fans hooked; if you like le Carré, Our Kind of Traitor is your kind of film.