Our Kind of Traitor
dir Susanna White
scr Hossein Amini
prd Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan
with Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Northam, Mark Gatiss, Khalid Abdalla, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Velibor Topic, Alicia von Rittberg, Saskia Reeves, Mark Stanley
release UK 13.May.16, US 1.Jul.16
16/UK StudioCanal 1h48
Our Kind of Traitor
International couple of mystery: McGregor and Harris

lewis skarsgard northam

36th Shadows Awards

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Our Kind of Traitor A sleek adaptation of the John le Carre novel, this thriller is unusually gripping without relying on the expected action beats. So even if the story is straightforward, director Susanna White builds suspense using character interaction and filmmaking touches that heighten the audience's perception. There's also a powerful message about moral relativity in politics.

Perry and Gail (McGregor and Harris) are in Marrakech on holiday, trying to salvage their marriage. But Perry is distracted by gregarious Russian Dima (Skarsgard), who asks for help with contacting British intelligence service. As a poetry professor, Perry feels way out of his depth, but back in London he meets MI6 agent Hector (Lewis), becoming entangled in a case involving information that ties a prominent politician (Northam) to a Russian mafioso (Dobrygin). All Dima wants is protection for his family, so Perry and Gail decide to do what they can to help.

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle gives every shot a lush variety of light, colour and texture that keeps the audience gasping at its beauty. With expert editing and design work, White keeps the focus tightly on the characters, which helps paper over the thinness of the plot. The McGuffin is a list of account numbers that even screenwriter Amini seems to understand is painfully dull, so every scene is spiced up with witty filmmaking and loudly gurgling intrigue.

This gives the actors plenty to work with. McGregor and Harris establish their relationship without histrionics, then dive into dangerous situations so realistically that it's unsettlingly easy to identify with them. So even with some silly plot points, we're right there with them, worried about the nasty goon lurking around the next corner. Lewis has a great time as the clipped agent who goes rogue because the case is too juicy to drop. And Skarsgard is terrific as the lively Russian who realises a little too late how precarious all of this is.

This is an old-style spy thriller about an innocent couple dragged into the middle of an international incident. Thankfully, the fate of the world is not at stake, and there's never any reason for a car chase. The story's action beats are staged in inventive ways that focus on personal reactions (the shootout is simply brilliant). And the fact that the central theme is about how big money can sway even the most powerful, law-abiding government. It's never shouted, but we get the point.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 10.May.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall