|'It's as much Spy Kids as it is serious espionage Drama.'|
After the success of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, some level of resurgence for the John le Carré adaptation was inevitable. An adaptation of one of his more recent works, Our Kind Of Traitor, makes sense though the way this film came about - in a seemingly rushed production and with a director (Susanna White) mainly known for TV work - hints that maybe more care could have been taken if the success of the previous adaptation was to have been repeated.
As it is, Our Kind Of Traitor is an OK Thriller, far from the polished production of Tinker, Tailor. A large part of the problem is in the plotting. Le Carré seems on less sure footing in the contemporary setting and his long repeated refrain that good men will ultimately do the right thing feels an empty message for our times. Hossein Amini, on screenwriting duties, fails to give the narrative the on-screen impetus it is desperately crying out for. There's no real motivation for Perry (Ewan McGregor) to carry a foreign object onto a plane for Dima (Stellan Skarsgård) and you can only sort of understand how and why his wife (Naomie Harris) comes around to sympathise as well. Muddled parallels between Perry and Dima's family situations are clumsy and hardly the work of a sophisticated subtext.
Perry and Gail aren't really your typical Le Carré protagonists either and it shows. As the 'everymen' of the story they behave irrationally far too often, to get swept up in a world that's beyond them. It's as much Spy Kids as it is serious espionage Drama. An alternative is offered in the shape of Damian Lewis' Hector, working without the permission of his boss Billy (Mark Gatiss) and against an MP; the impossibly named Aubrey Longrigg (Jeremy Northam). Hector though rarely gets the focus he needs and even his 'moment', taking it to Longrigg in his own home, feels a little flat.
The performances are also far too broad to anchor the film in the seriousness of le Carré's world. McGregor, long-haired and non-too-subtle, is never one to underplay and he's joined by a Skarsgård performance that is one part ridiculous sincerity, five parts vodka-swilling Russian henchman. Everyone, in fact, seems to feel as though they are owed a slice of scenery-shaped cake on which to have a good masticate. A more stiff-upper lipped villain than Northam you would struggle to find.
The conclusion also eventually sacrifices a lot of tension by opting for at least one obvious character moment; a repeated refrain in a film which often passes the time, sometimes in a satisfying manner, but never once really surprises or elevates its source to the ranks we know le Carré can reach.