MOVIE OF THE WEEK #4 (7/1/16): OUR KIND OF TRAITOR

"C'mon man – the script for the next Thor movie is over here!" Perry (Ewan McGregor) rushes Dima (Stellan Skarsgård) to safety in a scene from director Susanna White's adaptation of John le Carré's OUR KIND OF TRAITOR. Credit: Jaap Buitendijk © 2016 Roadside Attractions. All rights reserved.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis, Grigory Dobrygin, Khalid Abdalla and Rosanna and Emily Beacock

WRITER(S): John le Carré (original novel on which the film is based); Hossein Amini (screenplay)


THE STORY AS BEST WE KNOW IT: Based on the John le Carré novel of the same name, Our Kind of Traitor stars Ewan McGregor as Perry, a professor of poetics at the University of London. He is currently on holiday in Marrakesh with his wife Gail (Naomie Harris), a successful lawyer (or so we're told). It's there that that they met Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), a charismatic Russian man partying with his rather unique group of friends. Gail goes off to make a call, which gives Dima a chance to invite Perry to a party. But more on that in a minute ...

You see, before this happens, we are introduced to a Russian man named Misha (Rasha Bukvic), his wife Olga (Dolya Gavanski) and their teenage daughter Anna (Maria Fomina). We see Misha sign some papers, be given an ornate gun as a gift ... And then gunned down with Olga and Anna after leaving Moscow.

This should then explain why Dima is so desperate to make Perry's acquaintance – for he is in the same "Vory" (Russian mafia) responsible for killing Misha and his family, save for the two twins (Rosanna and Emily Beacock) Dima and his wife Tamara (Saskia Reeves) and own teenage daughter (Alicia von Rittberg) have taken in. Dima explains that Nicolas Petrov – a.k.a. the Prince (Grigory Dobrygin) – has taken over the Vory and is making his father's old associates sign over control to him and then murdering them. And Dima fears his family is next, which is why he needs Perry to take a flash drive full of information about both the Vory and the U.K. officials working illegally with the Prince's front operation to MI6 agents when he goes back to London. Reluctantly doing as requested, Perry and Gail immediately find themselves in way over their collective heads when MI6 agent Hector Meredith (Damian Lewis) and his partner Luke (Khalid Abdalla) start asking questions.

Now, Perry and Gail find their selves wrapped up in a world of international espionage they never asked to be a part of it – but have no choice but to be involved in if there is ever any hope for them to ever get out.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS MOVIE THE MOST? Stellan Skarsgård fans; John le Carré loyalists; those who enjoy old style espionage movies or anything having to do with the Russian mafia 

WHO WILL HATE THIS MOVIE THE MOST? Naomie Harris fans; those with short attention spans; Ewan McGregor fans; John le Carré loyalists who expect more from his work. 

SO IS IT GOOD, GREAT, JUST ALL RIGHT OR DOWNRIGHT AWFUL? "The book was better than the movie" – it's a cliché as old as movie adaptations of books themselves. Having never read any of John le Carré's novels, I cannot say with any certainty that Our Kind of Traitor is a great book; having seen the movie, however, I can say I certainly hope the novel is better – for the movie version of Our Kind of Traitor isn't very interesting whatsoever.

Who are you supposed to root or care for? That's usually not a question you find yourself asking for when you're watching a movie, especially one set up in a high stakes world of government officials and mobsters. Well, there is a clear character you will root for in Skarsgård's jovial mobster, who is the only compelling figure to be found throughout the film. McGregor's character – who should just be dubbed "out of his league protagonist no. 1" – is in way over his head in the film, as is McGregor who just looks around aimlessly most of the time wide-eyed with a "hey, why can't you just be nice to my Russian mob buddy?!" vibe to him throughout the film's 1 hour, 48 minute run time. There's nothing compelling about him or Harris' character as his wife – you don't believe them as a couple, you don't know what problems (infidelity is hinted at) have brought them to this point and you definitely don't get to watch them grow or build individually or as husband and wife. He is simply put upon which in turn makes Harris' character put upon, but not so much you would care about her since all she does for the most part on screen is complain about her husband's actions.

Then again, Lewis is doing his best to channel his inner badass to make his character of Hector seem like something respectable ... But it almost feels as if he's imitating what he thinks a good James Bond-like government official is supposed to be like from mannerisms to the delivery of his lines. He's not distinct; he's just filling a necessary role. That complicates manners because the villain is barely present physically for most of the film, instead serving just as a looming threat (just like the potential denial of asylum in the UK that Dima seeks for his family) and therefore making the intrigue in the characters' respective fates fall flat. It wouldn't be so bad if the generic Vory wasn't so generic that they fall in line with every other depiction of Russian gangsters (heavily tattooed, don't speak much, all skilled in hand-to-hand combat in close quarters). Seriously, remove Skarsgård and this movie loses about 90 percent of the interest you have vested in it – you don't even care what happens to his family; you only care because he cares. It should come as no surprise McGregor's character is bored with his job and his marriage – he's boring, so why shouldn't those things follow suit?

This is just one of many problems in a film where the main storyline begs you to ask the question "WHY CAN'T McGREGOR's CHARACTER JUST WALK AWAY?!" and is never fully answered. Again, not having read the book, maybe that question is answered and just ignored by the film's production team, but knowing a key plot point regarding a certain character's fate that and seeing how it is treated in the film will also make you go "well, that just seems random." Hopefully you won't feel a need for an excessive amount of caffeine watching the film, for there is a ton of talking about what could and should happen before anything actually, you know, happens.

I don't know who my kind of traitor is, but unless you enjoy movies that don't feel plodding, predictable and put-upon, this one probably isn't it.

RATING OUT OF FOUR BUCKETS OF POPCORN:



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