John le Carré, the novelist who came in from the Cold War to rage against the crimes of arms dealers (The Night Manager), big pharma (The Constant Gardener) and the war on terror (Absolute Friends), turned his fury on the corrupting influence of Russian money laundering on British institutions in Our Kind of Traitor, which has been slickly adapted for the big screen by writer Hossein Amini (Drive) and director Susanna White (Parade’s End).
Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris are the ordinary couple who stumble into the world of dirty money while on holiday in Marrakech trying to repair their fraying marriage. McGregor’s university lecturer Perry, itchy with guilt over an affair with a student and somewhat emasculated by his lawyer wife Gail’s higher-earning profession, unexpectedly befriends a flamboyantly gregarious, very wealthy Russian and gets a brief taste of his luxurious existence.
Stellan Skarsgård’s Dima turns out to be a money launderer for the Russian mafia and he wants Perry to pass information to MI6 about his boss’s dealings with leading members of the British establishment. The leak is a boon for dogged MI6 agent Hector Meredith (Damian Lewis), who has long had in his sights one of the figures implicated, a high-profile MP, but his evasive superiors are reluctant to grant what Dima requires in return - asylum in Britain for his imperilled family.
The fraught wrangling over this deal draws Perry and Gail, rather implausibly, into a series of cloak-and-dagger escapades, which take in Paris, Switzerland and the French Alps, as well as London. Although White never fully sells the film’s contrivances, nor Perry’s transformation from hangdog teacher to man of action, her film is never less than gripping and provides much else to enjoy – including Anthony Dodd Mantle’s sleek cinematography and the beguiling performances of McGregor, Lewis and, above all, Skarsgård, oozing burly charisma throughout.
Certificate 15. Runtime 108 mins. Director Susanna White
Our Kind of Traitor is released on EST from 5th September and Blu-ray, DVD and VOD from 12th September.
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.