This globetrotting John le Carré adaptation – directed by Susanna White and adapted by Hossein Amini – ticks many of the boxes one might associate with the author’s stories. Damien Lewis plays a George Smiley-type within MI6; Stellan Skarsgård is a high-profile money launderer – linked to the Russian Mafia – who is about to hand over information about dirty money that’ll implicate a senior British politician; Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris play a couple who get caught up in the middle of the exchange while holidaying in Morocco, and they routinely make the kind of stupid movie character decisions that no-one in their right mind would make in real life. The locations – London, Marrakech, Paris, Bern, the French Alps – are reasonably glamorous (though all linked by budget airlines) and within those places the emphasis is very much on the high life, with fancy health clubs, Eurotrash-filled party venues and opulent dining rooms adding plenty of gloss to the affair. Skarsgård – playing a gregarious, extravagant oligarch – clearly has the most fun of any of the actors, and his is probably the most interesting character, veering from concerned, protective family man to cornered psychopath in a heartbeat. Lewis also hams it up a little as one of those stereotypical English spymasters with mac, glasses and a tight-lipped, clipped way of speaking, but he makes an impression even though the character is usually far removed from the action. Harris – Miss Monneypenny in the last two James Bond films – is fine, if a little underused, while McGregor is an actor I struggle to watch more and more as the years go by, and despite the fact he’s been OK of late in a couple of villain roles I’m afraid he is the obvious weak link in the cast of this particular film; it doesn’t help that there’s really no need for either his character or that of Harris to remain in the story after half an hour or so, but their presence as supposedly-ordinary people does infuse a couple of scenes with added tension, at least. It’s fine, and contains some pleasing cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle, though his heavy use of reflective surfaces to create impressionistic, colourful images does wear thin after a while. There are one or two neat literary touches: the final shot, for example, is a callback to an earlier scene in which McGregor’s professor lectures on T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (though I imagine only those familiar with the street names of central London and the poem will get the reference). In this we see McGregor’s everyman walking against the flow of people, the inference being that he doesn’t follow the crowd, though in actual fact the actor’s performance is so grey it might have been more apt to have him blend in with the massed throng making its way over London Bridge.
Directed by: Susanna White.
Written by: Hossein Amini. Based on Our Kind Of Traitor by John le Carré.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Naomie Harris, Damien Lewis, Velibor Topic, Mark Gatiss, Jeremy Northam, Mark Stanley.
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle.
Editing: Tariq Anwar, Luchia Zuchetti.
Music: Marcelo Zarvos.
Running Time: 107 minutes.