Our Kind of Traitor Review



Having adapted Patricia Highsmith on the silver screen with his preceding endeavour, screenwriter Hossein Amini is now tackling John le Carré, and his novel Our Kind of Traitor. With Susanna White at the helm, this project triumphs where the writer’s last had suffered, as this makes for an intense, suspenseful watch, as we delve into the lives of a family – and their accomplices – vying desperately not to get caught by the mafia.

It all begins when poetry professor Perry Makepeace (Ewan McGregor) is approached on holiday in Morocco by the Russian millionaire Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), asked (well, effectively demanded) that he joins him for a drink. With his girlfriend Gail (Naomie Harris) away taking an important work call, Perry decides to give it a go, and winds up at a grandiose party, snorting cocaine, getting beaten up, and leaving with one helluva hangover.

But Dima is not finished, and wants to spend more time in the British couple’s company – so he can corner Perry at his daughter’s party, and ask the unsuspecting professor to hand in a USB stick to MI5, which contains valuable information he believes the British government will want to see. Alerting the attention of renegade detective Hector (Damian Lewis), all Dima demands is to be granted asylum on British soil for him and his family. Though they’re going to have to act quickly, for his betrayal could result in his murder – and it’s a perilous situation that Perry and Gail seem reluctant to back out of.

Initially Our Kind of Traitor works well because you place yourself in Perry’s shoes, and you can completely invest in his situation, finding yourself agreeing with his choices, manipulated by Dima just as he is, and no matter how far-fetched, you can imagine doing exactly the same thing. But as the narrative progresses Perry starts to make decisions that are wildly different to our own, and as such we lose that intimate connection with the character, and in turn, the film. McGregor makes for a fine entry point into this world however, as he has such an everyman quality about his demeanour that makes him so relatable. It’s exactly the same in Miles Ahead – where he represents that strand of normality, caught up in a chaotic, abnormal set of circumstances.

But it’s the unbearable, suspenseful nature of this thriller which makes for a worthwhile endeavour, making amends for a somewhat generic narrative and generic screenplay – thankfully brought to life by the disquieting atmosphere that lingers over proceedings and marking the credentials of White as a filmmaker. The film also teaches you a valuable lesson; never trust a man on holiday who wants you to have a drink with him, even if he does look as friendly and accommodating as Stellan Skarsgard.