After the Brexit vote, a fantasy of English intrepidness is welcome. It arrives in Susanne White’s adaptation of John le Carré Our Kind of Traitor.
We begin with betrayal. “The Prince” (Grigoriy Dobrygin), the new head of the vor, the Russian mafia, is supposedly going legit; part of the public effort to get respectable involves signing over his murky accounts into a bank being considered for the London exchanges. The ink isn’t dry when the Prince’s former associate is ambushed in the snow by machine gunners.
Cut, Bond-movie style, from the snows to the sands. In Marrakesh, a bored lit professor named Perry Makepeace (Ewan McGregor) is trying to patch things up on a vacation with his furious wife, Gail (Naomie Harris).
After Gail stomps away from a restaurant where they’re dining, Perry is invited to join a reveling Russian named Dima. Sweden’s Stellan Skarsgaard plays the big-hearted Slavic stereotype with infectious pleasure.
When Perry punches a rapey guest at Dima’s party, the Russian sees a man he can trust. Dima, a wealthy money launderer, is next on the Prince’s hit list. He wants to defect to England. If Perry can kindly drop off a thumb-drive to British customs, MI:6 will have proof that Dima has lots more info for them, and he’ll be able to hide from the Russian mob in London. But Hector, the government agent handling the case—played by Damien Lewis—has bigger plans for the professor and his wife.
It’s a smooth adaptation for two-thirds the way in, with satisfying locations and loads of thugs in tuxes. But the film loses its tension, and Gail’s turnaround from pissed-off spouse to willing partner is seriously abrupt. “Maybe we’ve been better at looking after other people than looking after each other,” she tells Perry.
Maybe someone should have looked after the script.
‘Our Kind of Traitor’ opens Friday at Summerfield Cinemas, 551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa. 707.552.0719.