Our Kind of Traitor | Movie Review

John le Carré is a master of espionage thrillers. Wiki indicates twenty three novels so far with OUR KIND TRAITOR being his twenty second novel, written in 2010. OUR KIND OF TRAITOR now comes to the big screen starring Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris. Directed by Susanna White (NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS) the movie was filmed in 2014 and has taken a little while to make it to the cinemas in Australia. It is out now from the fine folks at StudioCanal. Enjoy Kernel John’s review……….all the best……..JK.


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OUR KIND OF TRAITOR is a British spy thriller based on the 2010 John le Carré’s novel of the same name.  Directed by Susanna White (NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS), the film takes us on an international chase through Europe to stop a financial partnership between a syndicate of corrupt British elite and the Russian mafia.


Professor of Poetry Perry Makepiece, played by Ewan McGregor (THE GHOST WRITER) and his barrister wife Gail Perkins, played by Naomie Harris (SPECTRE) are attempting to enjoy a romantic holiday in Morocco.  Through a chance encounter at a restaurant, the two soon form an unlikely relationship with a wealthy Russian named Dima, played by Stellan Skarsgård (THOR: THE DARK WORLD).  Dima, it is revealed, is actually one of the top money launderers for the Russian Mafia.  When a ruthless new leader is installed as the head of the mafia, Dima begins to fear for the safety of his family.  As such, Dima momentarily manages to break away from his mafia controlled handlers to plead with Makepiece for assistance.  Providing Makepiece with a USB of information, Dima asks that it be presented to MI6 with a promise of more to come should he and his family be granted asylum.

Returning to England, Makepiece meets with MI6 agent Hector, played by Damian Lewis (television series HOMELAND), to present Dima’s proposal.  Upon reviewing the information, Hector learns that an agreement worth billions of dollars is being orchestrated for the mafia by a group of corrupt British politicians, lawyers, bankers and former intelligence officers.  When his superiors dismiss his accusations, Hector joins with Makepiece and Perkins to launch his own unsanctioned missions, so determined is he to get the rest of Dima’s information, whatever the cost.


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The standout in OUR KIND OF TRAITOR for me was Skarsgård.  He injected his character with just the right amount of passion that walked the line between a man hardened by decades in the mafia and one fearful for his family’s safety.  There is both drive and desperation there, as well as a hint of a desire to do the right thing.  As the name of the film suggests, Dima is the perfect kind of traitor for MI6 to deal with; one with the knowledge to bring an organisation to its knees, who is also distressed enough to see it through to the end.


Lewis’s character was also very interesting to watch.  Showing little emotion throughout the film, Hector is perfectly portrayed to the outside world as the stern and intractable agent.  When he does show passion, it is explosive and moving, demonstrating his convictions and determination in the face of difficulty.  Both McGregor and Harris are competent, but sadly do little in the way of really strengthening the film.


OUR KIND OF TRAITOR’s storyline, while enjoyable, has its issues.  Makepiece, it seems, had an affair with one of his university students, hence the romantic trip to Morocco to try and reconnect with his wife.  This point was only mentioned once, quite early on in the movie and never touched on again.  Further, once the film gets underway, this past indiscretion in no way seems to affect the couple’s actions as they play their parts in helping Dima.  It seemed a throwaway line that did nothing to advance the plot, but lessened Makepiece as a person in my mind, despite his Samaritan efforts towards Dima.  A separate issue surrounds the motivations of Hector, which are twofold.

On the one hand, he wishes to stop the Russian mafia from gaining a beachhead for their criminal activities in his country.  However, on the other, he seems almost single-mindedly obsessed with punishing a former intelligence agent, implicated as a lead orchestrator for this mafia deal, who had slighted him in the past.  This constant shifting of Hector’s motivations made it difficult as an audience member to justify his actions.  Was he playing with people’s lives and the security of his nation to bring an international criminal organisation to justice?  Or was it all simply a means to an end in his quest for vengeance?  At one point it even appears that Hector’s gloat, and consequently forewarning, to his nemesis of the latter’s impending doom nearly derails the entire operation, when tragedy strikes the team only hours later.


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Where this film really fails though is in its speed of execution.  This is no James Bond action adventure.  A spy thriller more in the vein of BRIDGE OF SPIES, this movie’s slow pace does not so much build tension as it does drag out a relatively straightforward plot.  There are no real twists or surprises, and only in the closing moments is a spanner thrown into the works.  That said, this particular stumble so close to the finish line was quickly righted, as it had to be so save the movie from being a total waste of everyone’s time.

In the end, White’s solid direction and wonderful cinematography cannot help to propel OUR KIND OF TRAITOR beyond its average roots.  Some standout performances and an otherwise enjoyable plot, are nonetheless letdown by the film’s plodding pace.  Even so, the movie is still worth a viewing for fans of the genre, and with expectations only slightly lowered from what one would expect from this film’s cast, an enjoyable viewing can be had.


3 Pops




A lifelong lover of the silver screen, Kernel John strives to engage and entertain his audience through the shameless use of humour in his reviews, even when it probably isn’t warranted. When not musing for Salty, you can often find John bouncing between his extreme states of either puppy watching down by the beach, or reflecting on the deepest mysteries of the Universe.

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.