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The latest film adaptation of a John le Carré novel, Our Kind of Traitor stars Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris as Perry and Gail, enjoying a quite holiday when Diman (Stellan Skarsgård), a Russian millionaire invites them to a party. The three become friends and it’s not long before Dima identifies himself as a money launderer who needs help. He asks the couple to deliver a USB to British MI6 and confesses that without them, his children will die. Having given the information to Hector (Damian Lewis) at British Intelligence, they quickly become embroiled in a game of cat mouse that sees the couple running through London, Paris, and the Swiss Alps.
Directed by Susanna White, Our Kind of Traitor is, like many of le Carré’s books, more focused on the dialog than the action and this is the right move. The spy game is far more interesting as a mystery than a thriller, and while both action and thrills will be part of the story, it will be the intrigue that should make this work. Tinker Tailor Solider Spy (2011), another le Carré adaptation, is an excellent example where tension can be built by stillness and while the trailer for Our Kind of Traitor tries to build up to some action, expect this to be a more nuanced film.
McGregor looks to be well cast, even though he’s never really had that ‘every man’ feel. There is an intelligence and confidence about him that lends itself well to the role of a teacher caught up in the game. Harris, who rightfully is getting a lot more exposure these days, appears to be limited though, just off in the peripheral with little to do other than express a necessary emotion. Let’s hope that’s not the case in the actual film and she has more contribution. Skarsgård has made a career out of playing eccentric and troubled characters, and while he seems too doleful to be mixed up in the Russian mob, at least has some presence and could give the cliched character some sharper edges.
A bit familiar, the trailer wants us to think Jason Bourne in hopes of getting action-enthusiast in the theater, but this should be a very different experience.
Our Kind of Traitor opens July 1, 2016.
Hossein Amini (screenplay), John le Carré (novel)
Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgård