By Adam Ray Palmer
Following on from my interview with the stars of Our Kind Of Traitor last month, I popped along to my local cinema, Phoenix Leicester, to catch this espionage-thriller.
‘OKOT’ has an array of talent in the leading roles including Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris. Susanna White directs this film from John le Carré’s novel.
I had an added interest in this film after interviewing the cast. I felt I had to like Our Kind Of Traitor, but ironically, I kind of felt like a traitor…
Our Kind Of Traitor follows a British couple (McGregor and Harris) who find themselves lured into a Russian oligarch's plans to defect are soon positioned between the Russian Mafia and the British Secret Service, neither of whom they can trust.
John le Carré’s work has been adapted twice this year already. In early spring, we had the pleasure of a six-part series from the BBC of John’s The Night Manager. A few months on, Our Kind Of Traitor arrives with a startlingly similar storyline. Both the protagonists from each novel get mixed up in dangerous situations. To be fair, the two novels were written 17 years a part but the latter is hardly original.
And so, we now have to judge a film that follows so closely to what has been called one of the BBC dramas ever – and ‘OKOT’ is just not as enticing. The near-two hour run time is so laboured. You can’t even say the film is disjointed; it’s just a little on the boring side. We travel to many different countries during the plot but that’s not a problem, the characters having very little to do is the main gripe.
Ewan McGregor is usually great in most things he does, and Our Kind Of Traitor is no different, but everyone else around him seem so lacklustre. Naomie Harries is like a statue. It’s not her fault because the writers have given her so little to do. Her role would be so interesting if we are allowed to explore it. She’s a powerful barrister, she’s mysterious, wears the trousers in her relationship with Perry (Ewan) and is also very distant from him but we are never told why. Harris is completely wasted here. Stellan is a top actor, but this film only tarnishes him. His Russian accent is straight out of the big book of stereotypes. It’s laughable at the start until you get used to it. Damian Lewis, on the other hand, is hard to pin down. I don’t know whether he is good, or whether we just cry out for some relief during this monotonous narrative. Lewis is quite annoying but his pompous humour and dry wit is welcomed from time to time.
I feel slightly let down by Our Kind Of Traitor. I had such a good interview with the cast and I was very excited for the film, but I’m left disappointed. The whole film feels a bit like a meek Spooks episode. It’s also like they had the same budget for a single episode too but they squandered it all on flights around Europe to shoot. I would even go to the extent of saying that the Spooks film (For The Greater Good), which received mixed reviews, is a better production than this.
There are two places where Our Kind Of Traitor goes wrong. The adaptation by Hossein Amini is below par. The script loses le Carré’s cynicism and edginess of the book. The direction is also underwhelming. The close up shots, basic panning and no adventurous filmmaking means Our Kind Of Traitor fails to build up intensity. Susanna White (director) misses the boat with this film as she could have easily made it more attractive. She could have even made it gritty and go the other way but instead she stays firmly in the middle and it doesn’t hit the right notes. Our Kind Of Traitor just falls short for me.
Cineroom’s Rating: 2 Stars
Our Kind Of Traitor is screening at the Phoenix cinema until Thursday 16th June and has a limited UK release – Certificate 15