Our Kind of Traitor full movie review - "Our Kind of Traitor" is a satisfying, but unremarkable thriller.
John le Carré does not exist. "John the Square" (as understood in French) is the pen name of British author David Cornwell.
For those who don't know who he is, Cornwell is a former member of Great Britain's Security Service and, later, his country's Secret Intelligence Service (perhaps better known as MI5 and MI6, respectively). He left the spy game in 1964 to pursue his burgeoning career as a writer of espionage novels. Now, if none of this sounds familiar, maybe these titles will: "The Tailor of Panama", "The Constant Gardener", "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "A Most Wanted Man". These are his novels which made it to the big screen just since the beginning of this century and have attracted the participation of actors Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz (who won an Oscar for her efforts). Writing as le Carré, one of Cornwell's more recent novels to become a feature film is "Our Kind of Traitor" (R, 1:48), a story which continues the author's tradition of setting his roller-coaster-like plots against a backdrop of big ideas, but this one is set in a greater variety of international locations than usual and has narrative that's been described as somewhat Hitchcockian.
Peregrine "Perry" Makepiece (Ewan McGregor) is a college professor whose marriage to successful attorney (barrister, to be specific), Gail Perkins (Naomie Harris) is going through a rough patch. He had recently slept with one of his students and he feels that his professional accomplishments are inferior to those of his wife. The couple takes a short vacation to Marrakesh, Morocco in an effort to put a spark back into their marriage. Instead, Perry ends up hanging out with a larger-than-life Russian man named Dima (Stellan Skarsgård) whom he meets in a local bar. In the space of just a couple days, Perry accepts Dima's generous but forceful invitations to drink together, to play tennis and to attend a couple parties. Gail joins Perry at the second party, but is unhappy about how it cuts into their alone time, and when Perry disappears for a while, Gail wonders what he's up to. Fortunately (and unfortunately) Perry is just talking privately with Dima, who reveals himself to be more than just a friendly Russian businessman.
Dima tells Perry that he launders money for the Russian mob and is concerned that he is about to be asked to "resign" (which would mean that Dima's family would end up "resigning" with him). Before any of that can happen, Dima wants to defect to the UK. He asks Perry to deliver to MI6 a memory stick with the names of British officials being bribed by the Russians to grease the skids for a major banking deal. Dima hopes this information will be enough for MI6 to grant asylum to Dima and his family in exchange for further intel. Dima says that Perry is the only one he can trust, and Perry is just kind and honorable enough to want to help save Dima and his family. Perry is also pretty naïve, thinking that he can "just" give the files to MI6 and be done. Perry soon finds out differently, as does Gail who also gets roped in.
An MI6 agent known as Hector (Damian Lewis) is keen to follow up on this lead, but it won't be easy. Hector's boss doesn't think there's enough to go on and thinks that Hector is motivated by revenge against a former supervisor (Jeremy Northam) who may be involved in the bribery scandal. So, Hector lies to his crew (and everyone else) about having permission to proceed and goes forward with his unauthorized operation ? which involves civilians, no less. Hector establishes contact with Dima, but Dima refuses to deal with anyone but Perry. Thus, Perry and Gail head to Paris where they "accidentally" run into Dima, who is on his way to Switzerland to sign over to his new bosses the accounts that he manages. Then, as things get more dangerous, Perry and Gail get involved more and more deeply.
"Our Kind of Traitor" is a satisfying, but unremarkable thriller. Some of the plot points seem highly implausible and others feel underwritten. The story is well-constructed, but the acting (except for Skarsgård's) is listless and the entire film suffers from a lack of tension. Cornwell / le Carré novels often suffer somewhat in the process of adapting them to the big screen, but this one is still worth a look. "B"