Our Kind of Traitor is another absorbing thriller from the mind of master-novelist John Le Carre. With an engaging set up, director Susanna White quickly draws us into a world where everyman Perry (Ewan MacGregor) finds himself at the centre of intrigue, following a chance encounter with Dima (Stellen Skarsgard), a money launderer for the Russian mafia.
Perry is on holiday in Marrakesh trying to get his marriage to Gail (Naomie Harris) back on track. His life is in a bit of rut, not only is his marriage on shaky ground, he’s thoroughly bored in his professional life, teaching poetry at university, and ripe for some excitement.
So when Gail leaves him alone at dinner one evening to take a business call, it’s not difficult to see why Perry accepts the invitation from the gregarious Russian to go party with him. It’s the kind of encounter that could happen to anyone, which makes it such a great starting point for an audience. This is not the kind of inaccessible world we find in a glitzy Bond thriller; there’s a reality here, where ordinary people are drawn into an extraordinary world.
Of course, this one decision irreversibly sets in motion a chain of events that build the film’s tension.
The performances are uniformly strong, with Skarsgard the standout as a conflicted, larger than life figure. There are also some important themes that the film skilfully deals with: corruption in western politics, the tainted world of international finance and (as always with Le Carre) the tension between private and public allegiances.
The pace is quite measured; it never gets bogged down but it is slow in places. The plot is also surprisingly straight-forward for a Le Carre adaptation; that trademark mind bending twist never eventuates. Nevertheless, this is strong film that should please anyone who enjoys the genre.
It also seems that Le Carre is getting a little bit Stan Lee these day: watch for his cameo during the Bern scenes.
3 1/2 stars
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor