Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Our Kind of Traitor

Our Kind of Traitor
Starring:
Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgard and Damian Lewis


Rated: R for violence, language throughout, some sexuality, nudity and brief drug use.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: July 1, 2016 Released by: Roadside Attractions

A globe-trotting espionage caper set initially in Morocco (with decent set-pieces in Paris and the Alps) isn't a zesty or very digestible adaptation of a lesser known 2010 John LeCarre novel. A contemporary, not Cold War, one, albeit with old-world trappings about it and nothing apparently at stake entailing deeper ramifications. Though it incorporates loyalty and family from deceased extended ones into a planned defection.

The arduous 'evil' in an overly twisty Our Kind Of Traitor tries to elicit a certain suspense from its characters as a civilian becomes embroiled with a wealthy money despot of a launderer, as well as a rogue member of British Intelligence and the Russian underworld. British filmmaker Susanna White (Nanny McPhee Returns) frames the proceedings with some visceral charge, yet insofar as Hossein Amini's screenplay is concerned, nothing nearly as thoughtful and rewarding as the recent small-screen (BBC/TNT) endeavor The Night Manager (written nearly two decades earlier by the man behind A Most Wanted Man and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - more viewer-friendly in their subtly polished celluloid form) emerges.

That's because little conflict is felt throughout from struggling professional couple Perry Makepeace (Ewan McGregor of The Impossible) and Gail Perkins (Naomie Harris - Moneypenny of Spectre and with Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw) getting in over their heads to assist flamboyant Russian Dima (an amusingly ebullient, if stereotypical Stellan Skarsgard of Avengers: Age of Ultron who is reminiscent of a famous mafioso from a long-running HBO series) after inviting them to a hedonistic soiree.

The emotional sinuosity of literature professor Perry and lawyer Gail strains credibility, leaving Harris unfortunately dispensable. And, a harried McGregor really is more of a pawn for the storyline as Makepeace's intentions surrounding a desire for familial asylum has an ambiguous air to it. Which is confirmed in a conversation with the desperate gregarious full-bellied gent who knew the Englishman was the right man for the job after being the only one in a bar.

Add to the mix Grigoriy Dobrygin and Jeremy Northam as an imposing Russian and prominent British politician, respectively, and Our Kind of Traitor teases narrative fascination, notably when MI6 thick-rimmed bespectacled, trench-coat clad Hector (Damian Lewis of Showtime's Homeland) has a fair amount of presence to wield with a solid understated flair. When it concerns his link in a microcosm of the kind of "black money" and conspiracies surfacing among seemingly law-abiding governments. The sum of this LeCarre on the silver screen with occasional discreet, lush if edgy parts abetted by lenser Anthony Dod Mantle and the score finally becomes more enervating than exciting when it comes to honest-to-goodness sardonic, intricate intrigue.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Matt Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Our Kind of Traitor        C+                     C+ 

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