Review: Our Kind of Traitor
PLOT: English couple Perry and Gail are on holiday in Morocco and become swept up in the world of Dima, a friendly Russian who turns out to be an employee of the Russian mafia. Desperate to leave his criminal life behind, Dima enlists Perry to help him turn over vital information to the authorities, which puts the innocent man's life in immediate danger.
REVIEW: OUR KIND OF TRAITOR is a minor entry into the international intrigue/spy thriller genre, but it's helped along by a good-looking cast and at least two standout performances. It's not quite as smart or sophisticated as it would have you believe, but if you're looking for a thriller that's a little more highbrow than the usual summer blockbuster, this film could provide some adequate entertainment.
Ewan McGregor and Naomi Harris star as Perry and Gail, an unhappily married couple vacationing in Marrakesh, attempting with little success to rekindle the fire. (It's never dwelled upon, but we can gather he made a mistake of the adulterous variety.) One night, when Gail is off taking a work call, Perry makes the acquaintance of Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), a gregarious Russian who insists Perry accompany him and his cohorts to a party. It doesn't take long for Perry - and us - to realize Dima is not exactly a straight-shooter, but Perry is so bored and depressed that any distraction will do. He parties with Dima into the early morning, and it soon becomes clear that the Russian isn't going to let Perry get rid of him. Gail also eventually gets caught up in Dima's world, and is especially drawn to the two children he's looking after.
But Dima's hospital attitude towards Perry hides an ulterior motive: he wants the Englishman to bring a file back to the UK with him to hand over to MI-6. Dima is a money launderer for the Russian mob, but recently there's been a shift in power, leading to the death of a friend and Dima's disillusionment with his profession. He's ready to turn himself over to the authorities, but his position is such that any hint of treachery will lead to the death of himself and his family. Thus, Perry has to be his go-between. Unfortunately for both, the agent they end up working with, Hector (Damian Lewis), is personally invested in the situation to a dangerous degree, and he might end up getting the whole lot of them killed.
So OUR KIND OF TRAITOR is one of those "ordinary man caught up in deadly espionage" tales; based on the book by a master of such things, John Le Carre, the Susannah White-directed film moves along at an unhurried pace and never really gathers up much momentum, but it's watchable enough to keep you moderately interested. Though it's not necessarily the most convincing story at times. One issue it has: the motives of Perry and Gail themselves. While Dima is a likable chap, and his family seems nice, it becomes harder and harder to believe the couple would be willing to risk their lives for them, especially as the stakes keep getting raised and you consider that Dima was indeed an unrepentant mafia thug for years. If this is what it takes to save a marriage, let's head to the divorce lawyer right now.
McGregor and Harris are both charismatic screen presences, but they don't build any chemistry in their scenes together. McGregor in particular seems a little miscast; he doesn't bring that "ordinary man" quality necessary for a role like this. Not unlike their characters, the two actors are pawns in this game, and they're far overshadowed by the more showy performances. Skarsgard is one of our most reliable character actors, of course, and Dima is a terrific opportunity for him to munch on the scenery with great enthusiasm. Lewis' performance isn't quite so over-the-top, but he's similarly very entertaining, seemingly turning up his English accent to 11 and projecting an engrossing air of officiousness and ruthlessness. These two actors make OUR KIND OF TRAITOR a little more palatable than it would have been with lesser thespians on display, but it still remains a movie that's simply OK and not a whole lot more.