Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
John le Carre is an author known for his taut, espionage thrillers, and Our Kind of Traitor (opening today) is his latest book to be given the big-screen treatment. He penned a number of novels that would be eventually turned into movies and TV shows, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, A Most Wanted Man, The Russia House and the recent AMC TV mini-series, The Night Manager. His latest effort, brought to the screen by screenwriter Hossein Amini (47 Ronin) and British TV director Susanna White, is a serviceable if implausible thriller, that uses familiar tropes and a pounding musical score to get the job done.
Poetry Professor Perry Makepeace (Ewan McGregor) is on holiday in Morocco with his wife Gail (Naomie Harris), trying to rekindle a love-lost relationship. One night in the hotel lobby after Gail heads up to bed, Perry is drawn in by a boisterous Russian accountant, Dima (Stellan Skarsgard) and befriended. Dima, it turns out, is a top-level money launderer for the Russian Mob, and some recent events have put him and his family in grave danger. With his phone tapped and under constant surveillance, Dima looks to use his innocent new friend Perry to deliver a thumb drive to an MI6 agent in London (Damian Lewis), to try to strike an immunity deal so that Dima and his family can get the heck out of trouble.
Having an average guy get swept up in a criminal underworld is nothing new, but Ewan McGregor's Perry is extra-helpings of average. The only shade of personality he is given is that he is a do-gooder, but he is also incredibly naive to even get caught up with Dima in the first place. In fact, it's the whole beginning that I had the biggest problem with, as Perry should have had the common sense enough to stay away from Dima with a ten-foot pole. But if you can stick with the plot through its problematic opening, you will find that things start shifting nicely into place and out of the muck, rises a good-but-not-great espionage thriller.
Stellan Skarsgard gives the film its most vibrant performance, and Damian Lewis does nice work as a shady agent working off of the books. McGregor and Harris - who is given nothing substantial to do - do their best with what they're given, and it would have been nice to have been made to care about them more. But as is the case with most of le Carre's work, it's more about the story than the characters anyways.
Our Kind of Traitor manages to keep your attention, but nothing more. Unless average thriller's are your kind of thing.
Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Damian Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Naomie Harris, Alicia von Rittberg, Mark Stanley, Mark Gattis, Jeremy Northam
Based on the novel by John le Carre
Written by Hossein Amini (47 Ronin, Snow White and the Huntsman, Drive, The Wings of the Dove) Directed by Susanna White (Nanny McPhee Returns)
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