Directed by | Susanna White
Produced by | Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan
Screenplay by | Hossein Amini
Starring | Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis, Alicia von Rittberg, Velibor Topic
Run Time | 107 minutes
Certificate | 15
Plot | While on holiday in Marrakech, a young British couple (McGregor, Harris) strike up an unlikely friendship with an ageing money launderer (Skarsgård) for the Russian mob. Before long, they are embroiled in a high stakes defection.
Review | Our Kind of Traitor has had a number of problems getting made over the years, with directors and stars coming and going. At one point, the roles occupied by McGregor and Skarsgård were earmarked for Ralph Fiennes and Mads Mikkelsen. With this knowledge, it would be understandable if the audience found the final pairing a little more… whelming. Truthfully, they this would be a little harsh, and we would have been robbed of at least one great performance.
McGregor is perfectly fine in the lead role. You know exactly what you’re going to get – a competent performance from a likable everyman. He’s almost to the point of typecasting these days, but he does it well enough. Still, recalling just how amazing Ralph Fiennes was in The Constant Gardener, this feels like a safe and reliable option, rather than one set out to tantalise.
Thankfully, Skarsgård is brilliant. His Dima is the one truly three dimensional character in the entire film, and he’s a joy to watch. In a moment’s notice he can switch from playful party guy, to dangerous mobster, to caring family man. At a different time of the year, in a more Oscar-baity feature, he would at least get a heap of nominations.
The rest of the supporting cast are fine, if lacking any particular depth. Harris does the best with what she’s got in a very underwritten role, though she and McGregor lack the chemistry to make their ‘marriage-on-the-rocks’ seem particular tangible. Damian Lewis’ MI6 agent is almost drenched in stereotyping, though does have a singularly excellent scene where he confronts a ne’erdowell at a cocktail party. Literally everyone else is background fodder.
The film itself generally moves along at a nice clip, though it sags slightly in places where Skarsgård is off screen for too long. The cinematography and direction is a mixed bag, with the number of unique or interesting shots equalled, if not surpassed, by the overuse of certain colour filters that are quite overused in this kind of feature.
In some ways, Our Kind of Traitor is an odd film. It’s doesn’t have the weight of other Le Carré adaptations such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, yet it lacks the whizzbangery of a Hollywood espionage such as Mission: Impossible. If pushed to a comparison, this is a good, if stripped back Tinker-lite affair.
The Verdict | Worth watching at least once for Skarsgård’s performance, Our Kind of Traitor is an otherwise relatively safe thriller.