John le Carré has now become something of a movie and TV brand following the recent success of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager. Our Kind Of Traitor is the latest le Carré tale to be adapted to the screen though it lacks a certain ‘oomph’, despite a top tier cast and an intriguing plot.
Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris play Perry and Gail, a couple whose relationship is on the rocks holidaying in Morocco. A chance encounter with Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), a Russian mobster leads, into the murky world of espionage, where they encounter Hector (Damian Lewis), a shifty spy with the singular agenda of bringing down Jeremy Northam’s corrupt politician.
The elements are all in place to make Our Kind Of Traitor a great thriller – including the current Moneypenny and three men previously in the running for James Bond (Northam, McGregor and Lewis) but the film never quite shoots into top gear. It plods along, ticking boxes without ever revving up the tension. You can argue that le Carré stories are more about the intrigue than the thrills, but when life and death hangs in the balance there should be something to get you on the edge of your seat. In fact, Our Kind Of Traitor suffers from many of the same flaws that hindered Anton Corbijn’s le Carré adaptation, A Most Wanted Man (read the Movies In Focus review). Spying in real-life may be more paper shuffling and logistics than cocktails and hidden volcano bases but there needs to be something to captivate the viewer.
Despite the inertia, there’s much to enjoy in Our Kind Of Traitor – the cast is good, the locations are scenic and the film occasionally hits a few good moments of cinematic curiosity. The climax finally ups the ante but it comes too late. Furthermore, the film is hindered too by Anthony Dod Mantle’s obvious cinematography. We get shots through glass and bouncing off reflective surfaces in an attempt to show the opaque and duplicitous nature of espionage, but you don’t have to hit us over the head with it in every shot.
A missed opportunity, Our Kind Of Traitor fails to become essential viewing. It’s a solid spy tale but it never engages in the way it should. Those looking for Bond and Bourne style hijinks will be bored, and you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for the complexity of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
You get some interviews and a making-of. A solid if unspectacular package for a solid if unspectacular film.