The recent success of the superbly staged BBC production of John Le Carré’s “The Night Manager” with Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie must have been music to the ears of the producers of “Our Kind of Traitor”. Was it the case that the film was held back by the studio for that very reason – to ride the coat tails of that success? When you consider that principal photography of this pic was finished back in June 2014 (TWO THOUSAND AND FOURTEEN!) this becomes a definite suspicion. Because unfortunately, it’s really not very good.
Ewan McGregor and Naomie (“Moneypenny”) Harris play struggling couple Perry and Gail, going through a bit of a sticky patch, emotionally and sexually. (They must be, since they can’t even seem to get it together on holiday in Marrakesh where – frankly – romance and libido come out of the taps with the running water).
One evening, after Gail strops off to “do some work”, university lecturer Perry falls in with larger than life Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), a character who with his entourage reminds you immediately why having loud rich Russians in foreign holiday destinations is one of the curses of this new century. After many years of serving as the money-man for a Russian Mafia boss, Dima is now working for his unpredictable and merciless son, ‘The Prince’ (Grigoriy Dobrygin) who (for no readily apparent reason within the plot) seems to bump off his financier and his immediate family after big deals complete.
One such big deal for Dima is approaching in Berne,with potentially compromising consequences for high level British politicians and bankers. Dima begs for Perry’s help to use this information to save his family by turning informant to MI6. Perry passes on the request to MI6 operative Hector (Damien Lewis) who struggles to persuade his boss Matlock (“Sherlock”’s Mark Gatiss) to buy into the scheme. This leaves Hector, Perry and Dima in a “Mind The Gap” position, as they desperately try to escape the vengeance of the Prince and his henchmen without a safe harbour.
It’s difficult to pin down exactly where the issues are with this film. It is all just rather dull and predictable. Everything you expect to happen, does, and exactly when you expect it to. I haven’t read the book (to be honest, I have never managed to get to the end of a Le Carré novel! #shortattentionspan) so I’m unaware of whether the issue lies with the source material or the screenplay by Hossein Amini (“Drive”; “The Two Faces of January”).
Naomi Harris is personable enough as the lawyer/wife, but is given absolutely nothing else to do other than review a contract and babysit: given the director is a woman, this is a surprisingly retrograde storyline for women in film. McGregor doesn’t really convince in the Hitchcock ’fish-out-of-water-James-Stewart’ role. The Russian ‘baddies’ emphasise their baddiness by beating up woman, which feels unnecessary and gratuitous. This allows Perry to get another couple of ‘knight in shining armour’ badges on his Boy Scout sleeve (again, neither realistic or believable). Damien Lewis is all pipe-and-slippers in the MI6 role, probably not doing his credentials for Bond much good.
The one role that really does work is Skarsgård as the jovial Russian, who dives into the role with great energy, delivering a full-on but convincing accent. He is eminently watchable throughout. It’s also good to see young Alicia von Rittberg – so memorable in the tense ‘dinner’ scene in “Fury” – in a meatier acting role, even though her character’s actions are so annoyingly dumb.
The director is Susanna White, whose only other feature to date was “Nanny McPhee Returns”. That’s probably all you need to know.
A film I was really looking forward to from the trailer, but a big disappointment I’m afraid.
Fad Rating: FF.