By Bill Hughes (Baltimore, Maryland)
Our Kind of Traitor is Solid, but Not Top, Entertainment
It’s an espionage film, via the remarkable wordsmith, John Le Carre. Our Kind of Traitor just opened. I caught it at the Charles Theatre.
I love the spy genre. And, this film, shot with stunning backdrops depicting Russia, Morocco, Switzerland, France and England, has a lot of positive aspects to it.
Our Kind of Traitor is solid entertainment, but not by any stretch a great film. It is more than just an okay flick however. In particular, It has some fine acting, especially from Ewan McGregor (as Perry, a university poetry professor); and, Naomie Harris, (as his girlfriend, Gail, a barrister).
Perry is the good, innocent guy in this movie, who inadvertently opens up a can of worms by getting too close to the wrong crowd. Harris is just along for the ride, with not a lot to do.
Yes, you’re right if you were thinking that Harris is that same gal that played a “hottie” (Moneypenny), in that last James Bond movie. As for McGregor, a fine Scottish actor, he’s been on a roll as a rising international movie star, since taking on the lead in Roman Polanski’s award-winning flick, The Ghost Writer.
The movie’s story line for Our Kind of Traitor, I must say, is seriously flawed. I didn’t read the book, so I don’t know if the adaptation is off or if I should blame it on the screenplay.
The crux of the problem is that the film is set up to have you concerned mostly about the fate of a Russian Mafia gangster, “Dima,” played brilliantly by Stellan Skarsgard. He fears for his life, and for the wellbeing of his young family.
Dima is desperate for a way to make a deal with MI6, British Intelligence, in order to gain sanctuary in England for himself and his brood. But, who really gives a good damn what happens to an operative for the Mob? Dima is likable fellow, but still he’s a bloody gangster, who favors the “f” word. This is the rub in my opinion.
Dima’s Mafia boss, an Oligarch, k/a “The Prince,” (Grigoriy Dobrygin), is planning to knock him off, just as he had whacked Dima’s predecessor, who had also acted as his bankster. Trust me, the scene where that slaughter takes place, on a lonely, icy Russian road, will make you – cringe.
Ruthless doesn’t begin to describe “The Prince” and his crime family. They are not only amoral killers but they treat their women like disposable chattel. They make our Mafia, with a tip of the hat to the late John Gotti, look like altar boys in comparison.
Background: Since the fall of Communism in Mother Russia, a new class of predators have emerged there – the Oligarchs. Some of them have been systematically looting the country – stealing billions of dollars of assets and natural resources. A few have been caught and prosecuted – most haven’t. A lot of the anti-Vladimir Putin propaganda that you witness in the Establishment Media in U.S. can be attributed to the fact that he, and his government, have taken a hard line against the lawbreakers in this clique of vultures.
Getting back to the movie. Perry and Gail, Londoners, are on a holiday in Morocco. Perry ends up partying with Dima, where Dima asks him to act as a courier for him. He wants Perry to pass off a memory stick to MI6, when he returns home. Unbeknown to Perry, it contains loads of inside information exposing high level Brit banking/corporate officials, including politicos, in crooked deals and payoffs with the Russian Mob.
Perry makes it to London, meets with the MI6 honcho (Hector), played capably by Damian Lewis, and gives him the memory stick. This end of the tale gets complicated fast, since Hector’s boss doesn’t think Dima is such a good catch for the agency.
Also, there’s a wirepuller in the House of Lords, who is close to this evolving scheme, and the power-shakers in MI6. He despises Hector. Think House of Cards/Perfidious Albion!
There are some interesting scene shifts from Morocco to London; then on to Paris; with a stopover in Bern, Switzerland; and later on to the French Alps. As for tension/suspense, there’s some, but not nearly enough to keep you hanging.
Our Kind of Traitor will entertain you, but it’s not in the forever-memorable category. I’m giving it three out of five stars.
[referring to Dima as they are sat in a restaurant]
Gail Perkins: Stop starring
Perry Makepeace: He’s the one who’s starring, look.
[Dima walks over to their table]
Dima: Come have a drink with us.
Dima: Why don’t you come to the villa for a small party tonight?
[later as Perry and Gail go to Dima’s party]
Gail Perkins: This is a small party?