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Our Kind of Traitor
Genre Thriller
 
Review:

Our Kind of Traitor is based on the novel by John le Carré, an author whose film credits include: The Constant Gardener, A Most Wanted Man and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. His espionage thrillers are thought-provoking - more realistic than James Bond and less action-intensive than Jason Bourne.

Our Kind of Traitor fits into this mold once again, delivering a thought-provoking story about a couple who finds themselves caught between the Russian Mafia and British Secret Service. It's a cerebral drama turned spy thriller, following in the tradition of A Most Wanted Man, letting the performances drive the appeal instead of leaning on explosive visuals.

We're immersed in a holiday, not unlike Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. Instead of Jimmy Stewart, we have Ewan McGregor, playing a rather demure English professor and instead of Doris Day, we have Naomie Harries, playing a concerned barrister. It's got a slick contemporary overlay, which is reminiscent of the film Runner Runner with Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck, a relational dynamic reflected by McGregor and Skarsgård. The British couple cross paths with a Russian oligarch planning to defect, brought to life by Stellan Skarsgård and take his offer to barter with British Secret Service agent, Damian Lewis.

McGregor is more of a vessel for the audience in this The Man Who Knew Too Much style drama and while the vicarious journey is curious, we never fully immerse ourselves, making the experience a bit too detached to be memorable. There's good chemistry between McGregor and Skarsgard, which could have been leveraged more, but you can't really fault the actors who deliver on their promises with Lewis rounding off a first class cast.

Our Kind of Traitor's directed by British TV and film director, Susanna White, who turns her focus from television to film. Instead of action and suspense, this film is powered by solid performances and slow-burning espionage intrigue. The strong cast and sharp writing ground the drama as we get to grips with Russia-UK inside politics, secret agendas and power plays. It all sounds quite appealing, but despite the film's quality ingredients, it's a little underwhelming.

You get the impression that the film-makers used the BBC's Sherlock as a reference and possibly influence for the look-and-feel of this adaptation. However, instead of break-neck visuals and sharp interplay, there's a lethargic feel to the storytelling, which makes things seem more real, yet rather inconsequential. This could be attributed to le Carré's playground of subtleties or possibly a follow-through from White's wealth of TV experience. Unfortunately, the lack of foreboding danger makes the spy games seem rather pedestrian and routine.

Our Kind of Traitor's good enough to keep watching and has one or two moments, but it isn't recommended if Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and A Most Wanted Man didn't appeal to you.

The bottom line: Intriguing


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