Based on a novel by John le Carre ‘Our Kind Of Traitor’ finds a married couple, Perry (Ewan McGregor – ‘Trainspotting’) and Gail (Naomie Harris – ‘Skyfall’), on holidays in Morocco trying to repair their marriage which has been damaged by Perry sleeping with one of his university students. On a night out at a restaurant Perry crosses paths and befriends Dima (Stellan Skarsgard – ‘Thor’) who turns out to be the chief money launderer for the Russian Mafia.
Knowing that his time is almost up and he is sure to follow in the footsteps of his executed predecessor Dima is desperate to reach out for help… and to take down the Russian Mafia. When he realises that the Mafia are behind a new bank being sent up in London, along with the help of some corrupt British politicians, Dima pleads with Perry to take a USB containing all the account information and names back to British authorities.
Perry does so and soon Hector (Damian Lewis – ‘Homeland’), a determined British Agent, is on the case and ready to take down those involved with the corrupt scheme. However the corruption goes deeper than first believed and soon it seems that Dima, his family, Perry and Gail are in a lot more danger than anyone could have predicted.
I’ve had a mixed love affair with the spy genre over the years. While I’ve never been a big fan of the epic James Bond films, they are just too unbelievable for me, I consider ‘Spooks’ to be one of the best television shows ever made. I guess you can say that I prefer my spy dramas to be a more believable kind of story… and it is for that reason that I am happy to say that ‘Our Kind Of Traitor’ is a captivating spy drama that has you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
The key to making a spy drama like this really attach itself to its audience is to make the film believable enough for the audience to believe that this is something that could happen to them. We see that idea work brilliantly with the Liam Neeson led ‘Unknown’ a few years ago and now director Susanna White (‘Lie With Me’) puts that notion to work brilliantly with ‘Our Kind Of Traitor’. Perry and Gail are just everyday people that find themselves in a situation that sees them in over their heads… and it is for that reason you find themselves rooting for them.
The hardest part for White and her screenwriter, Hossein Amini (‘Drive’) to achieve with this film was to make the audience also want to see Dima, a member of the Russian Mafia, get to safety. Together the pair make this achievable my showing Dima as a ‘nicer’ member of the Mafia. We never get to see whether or not he has actually killed anybody previously and instead he is painted as a man that loves his family and is willing to do anything to protect them. Just to ram the point home even more we get to see him early on protect Perry after Perry pisses off the wrong kind of person at a party.
If that’s not enough to raise the suspense for the audience White and Amini then ramp it up to eleven with a storyline that has the audience constantly trying to guess who are the good guys and the bad guys here. The character of Hector is written in such a way that you can never be one hundred per cent sure whether he can be fully trusted and the same goes for many of the characters around Dima. The result is even when Perry and Gail take a short taxi trip the audience find themselves on the edge of their seats unsure what exactly is going to happen to them next. It takes a special kind of director to be able to raise the suspense levels during scenes like that, but here White seems to do it with absolute ease.
The brilliant screenplay also plays out perfectly for the actors involved as well. Ewan McGregor relishes one of the meatiest roles that he has had in the past few years, once again showing the acting community that he deserves to be considered an A-Lister. He is well supported by Naomie Harris who shows she has more to offer than what we have seen in the Bond franchise, but the real winners here are Stellan Skarsgard and Damian Lewis. Often actors are tripped up when having to throw on an accent but here Skarsgard steps up with a Russian accent that never waivers while Lewis is a pleasure to watch on the big screen as he stands-out in a role where his intentions remain ambiguous for the audience for most of the film. Lewis plays the role of Hector so well you find yourself hoping… even wishing… that they may decide to make more movies, or even a television show, around the cases he finds himself involved on.
‘Our Kind Of Traitor’ is a well written spy thriller that is a pleasure to watch due to some sleek directing by Susanna White and some nice cinematography that takes full advantage of the various European destinations that are used throughout the film. With suspense raised throughout the film this is one of the most realistic spy dramas that you are ever likely to watch.
Director: Susanna White
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgard
Running Time: 108 mins
Release Date: 13th May, 2016