A Review of Our Kind of Traitor by Nigel Watson.
Our Kind Of Traitor is screening from 18th – 30th June at Plymouth Arts Centre.
Perry Makepeace (Ewan McGregor) is a poetry lecturer on holiday with his girlfriend Gail Perkins (Naomie Harris) in Morocco. They are trying to patch-up their relationship but things are not going well with this, especially when she leaves Perry at a restaurant to do some work back at their hotel. Left alone watching a group of Russians drinking hideously expensive bottles of booze, he’s unexpectedly invited over to join them.
Perry is persuaded by the loud-mouthed, extrovert, Dima (Stellan Skarsgard) to share their drinks and takes him off to a party. The party is in full swing when they get there as evidenced by a scantily clad woman on horseback inside the mansion, and Perry is soon seduced into taking drugs with a seductive party girl, and gets involved in a fight to save the honour of a lady.
Dima through his forceful charisma befriends Perry for the rest of the holiday, though there is a price to pay for all this socialising, party going and tennis playing. As a member of the mafia Dima and his family are in grave danger from his new leader ‘The Prince’ (Grigorily Dobrygin). To save his family, Dima wants Perry to give a USB stick to MI6 and negotiate sanctuary for them.
Perry is now a pawn sucked into a game between the murderous Mafia and the bureaucratic MI6. Hector (Damian Lewis) is keen to help Dima as his information can bring down the career of the corrupt MP Aubrey Longrigg (Jeremy Northam) who was his former MI6 boss, who got his son jailed for drug dealing. He denies it is a personal vendetta against Aubrey, but he is willing to use his own money and ignore orders from his current boss Billy Matlock (Mark Gatiss) to get this vital information from Dima using Perry as the reluctant intermediary.
Following in the wake of the successful The Night Manager TV miniseries, which was also based on a John le Carré, this is an equally taught thriller that uses glamorous locations worthy of a Bond movie (Marrakesh, London, Paris the Swiss Alps) and le Carré’s trademark ability to show individuals (and families) caught in a web of intrigue where you never know who is friend or foe.
As Dima, Stellan Skarsgard gives a scene stealing performance, on the other hand it is disappointing that Gail’s role as a lawyer is not given more involvement in the plot, and Mark Gatiss is also underused as Hector’s boss.
There is an odd scene where Gail and Perry are taken to a rough housing project in Paris for no particular reason than to underline that they are dealing with very violent people, only a few miles from the opulence and sophistication of the Prince and his plans for a bank that will operate with money gained by such conditions of exploitation and suffering.
As Hector, Damien Lewis seems to base his tweed-suited character on Michael Caine’s portrayal of Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File (1965), even down to his love of cooking at home and black specs. There are also some nice touches where Perry asks how many people are on this case, Hector has to admit ‘just the three of us’ and he doesn’t get the funds to charter a private plane. Obviously, not the all-expenses-paid world of James Bond or the clear-cut chance to save the world from some evil monster here, instead we get a more nuanced and gripping view of the spying game.