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  Our Kind of Traitor Man Up
Year: 2016
Director: Susanna White
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis, Naomie Harris, Jeremy Northam, Mark Gatiss, Saskia Reeves, Khalid Abdallah, Mark Stanley, Alicia von Rittberg, Alec Utgoff, Marek Oravec, Jana Perez, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Dolya Gavanski, Velibor Topic
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: There are events going on behind international scenes that we may not quite grasp, for they do not become clear enough in our lives to be apparent, but for a couple whose marriage is going through a bad patch, that all is about to change. They are the Perkins, Perry (Ewan McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris), and she is more successful than he is in his lecturing job, which is creating a strain between them, so what better to do than head off from Britain to Marrakech on a romantic holiday? How could they possibly be aware that there has been a deal with the Russian mafia to invest huge sums in a new British bank? What could that have to do with their lives? One man, Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), is the key...

2016 was a big year for adaptations of John Le Carré novels, but not really because of Our Kind of Traitor, which was rather left in the dust behind the television version of The Night Manager which became must-see viewing for millions. This, not so much; it didn't have Tom Hiddleston as the man of the moment for an attraction, no matter that the film cast a collection of reliable thespians to flesh out its characters, and had something for them to put across about the issues of international espionage that were far more relevant than the fantasies of the James Bond world Harris had recently become a part of. This was serious moviemaking, after all, and Le Carré enjoyed high standing in that style.

The big idea was twofold: first, the decline of the United Kingdom as a major world power, and second, the rise of the influence of crime syndicates on its behind the scenes practices that lubricated the engines of finance, business and politics. You can feel like an irrelevance as all this takes place in massive deals and dangerous machinations, especially when you could be forgiven for believing that by this point in the twenty-first century there was no public body across the entire globe that was not having its strings pulled by the criminals and effects of corruption, meaning the premise here was cynical in the extreme, leaving you in a hopeless position in the face of it (assuming you were not in a place to have your own influence).

For this reason, Perry who is every inch the useless modern male, adrift in his life when he wonders what possible use he can be to anyone now, finds himself agreeing to become part of a modern spying operation. He has no traction as a husband, in his job or in society, so when he meets Dima, a larger than life personality who genuinely likes him and makes him feel wanted and vital, he is happy to allow himself to pass on some top secret information from him to the British security services, not so much because it serves his country, but more because it serves his own faltering ego in a curious commentary on the attraction of the Bond fantasy. As for Gail, apparently she goes along with it because she gets all gooey-eyed over Dima's kids, who are now in peril from the Russian mafia, leaving her character a little underdeveloped and giving Harris that bit more work to do to make Gail believable.

But who was Dima? He was a heavily tattooed Russian gangster, a warm and hearty fellow who happened to have done terrible things in his past but was now about to make up for them if Perry could assist. Director Susanna White kept things bubbling along, though in truth it was a touch too downbeat to be entirely gripping since no matter how sleek she and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle made it look, no matter the variety of exotic locations they travelled to (there appeared to be different ones in every scene after a while), the manner in which the whole mood was terribly down on everything, as if there was no stopping the wave of bad guys from running every show in town, rendered this less the thriller that it was and more an O tempora, O mores lament for an unabated sense that the world was going to Hell in a handbasket. If you wanted optimism, it was on the smaller scale, the connections we can find between people that prove we're not all bad (not even some of the bad guys are all bad), offering us solace in a landscape that had to be negotiated gingerly if we were to survive at all. Music by Marcelo Zarvos.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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