Our Kind of Traitor (2016) Movie Review

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our Kind of Traitor (2016) Movie Review

Our Kind of Traitor (2016) Movie Review

murky and tense, but slow and unconvincing
John le Carre is possibly one of the most acclaimed mystery thriller writers of the last few decades. He does seem able to write stories and characters with enough ambiguity and vagueness to keep his audience on the edge of their seat. This is certainly the case with Our Kind Of Traitor. 

I've not read the source material, but Amini's screenplay doesn't have the same punch as other le Carre adaptations. Much of the dialogue is clunky, overly sweary and too expositiony, which doesn't match the grounded and muted visual style and colour palette.

Coinciding with the clunky dialogue is some fairly wooden acting, even by the big named cast. McGregor is perhaps a little too subtle, whereas Harris is too far the opposite way, although Lewis and Skarsgard do fit their roles pretty well. Cleverly you never know which characters you can trust or what anyone's motives are, though by the end you're frustratingly still not 100% sure.

The main trouble is, along with the script and acting, the movie feels bumpy and uneven - it never quite gels. Mantle's shaky cinematography makes it hard to focus while the slow pace drags the film out and tests your patience a little. But Zarvos's music brings a great, murky and tense atmosphere that will keep you slightly unsettled throughout.

A good watch - Susanna White's created a brilliantly ambiguous and tense movie, though a little extra direction on the cast may have made it more convincing and emotional.

Le Carre is on a roll
John Le Carre is on a roll. Hot on the heels of the well-received TV adaptation of THE NIGHT MANAGER comes this cinema version of another of his novels, also filmed with a hefty budget, I imagine: location shoots in Morocco and Bern as well as Paris and London. The storyline bears some similarities to THE NIGHT MANAGER: outsiders accidentally drawn into the world of espionage and treachery. The movie seems to have sneaked in under the radar: I wonder why the producers didn't cash in more blatantly on MANAGER's success.

Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris play a British poetry professor and his wife who befriend a Russian millionaire they meet on holiday. He asks the professor to approach MI5 with his offer to defect to Britain with some uncomfortable information about members of the Establishment who are helping a mafia bank set up a laundering branch in London; in return he wants his family to be offered protection in the West.

Stellan Skarsgard plays the rude crude oligarch in a volume and style borrowed from Brian Blessed. Damian Lewis affects an unconvincing Belgravia accent as the one decent spymaster fighting the recalcitrance and lack of principles of his Whitehall superiors, a part which perhaps too obviously recycles Olivia Colman's in THE NIGHT MANAGER. There's not enough meat on Naomie Harris's role, but Ewan McGregor makes a more persuasive Ordinary Joe than MANAGER's Tom Hiddleston, who seemed a bit bland and too posh – I hope he won't be the next 007.

Perhaps OUR KIND OF TRAITOR has come too close on the heels of THE NIGHT MANAGER, making the similarities over-conspicuous. TRAITOR has a little less drama but a lot more heart. Le Carre is very good at endings – remember THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD? – and this one is particularly finely judged. This is up there with the best of his movies.

Disappointing but still watchable
As a Le Carre fan, it is fair to say that the film made a reasonable attempt of faithfully representing the book, although there were a few changes to the story. The problem with the film is that the book wasn't that brilliant to start off with and with the exception of Stellan SkarsgÄrd (who played Dima)the other actors did not seem to have much belief in the characters they played. Saying that, it is possible for a film to be an improvement on the book and maybe misplaced deference to the author got in the way of the director and actors attempting to make the story more credible and interesting.

Perry was too 'nice' so when he played a 'knight in shining armour' on a couple of occasions, it was slightly confusing. Damian Lewis's performance (who played Hector of MI6) verged on the embarrassing as he portrayed him as a bumbling upper class twit which I am sure is not the character trait of MI6 operatives.

Overall, the film was watchable, but disappointing, especially after viewing the 'Night Manager' recently on television.

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