This cinematic adaptation of spymaster John le Carre’s 2010 Cold War thriller opens with a tantalizing glimpse of the Bolshoi Ballet, followed by the cold-blooded execution of a family on an icy, snowy road. Then it shifts to Morocco, where an estranged British couple – Perry Makepeace (Ewan McGregor), a mild-mannered poetry professor and his savvy lawyer wife Gail (Naomie Harris) – are dining in a posh café in Marrakech. Read on…
When Gail leaves him to respond to a phone call, Perry’s hailed by gregarious Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), a wealthy, flamboyantly tattooed Russian oligarch, urging him to join his jovial group at a nearby table.
One thing leads to another, as naïve Perry discovers that Dima, who possesses a photographic memory for numbers, is a money launderer for the Russian Mafia, headed by “The Prince” (Grigory Dobrygin), who signals his enemies’ death warrants by presenting them with an heirloom pistol.
Acutely aware that his days are numbered, Dima is desperate to defect with his family – using Perry as a gullible go-between – seeking the help of British Intelligence, offering incriminating information about a corrupt Parliament member (Jeremy Northam) who’s fronting London’s newest bank.
MI6’s skeptical Hector Meredith (Damien Lewis, wearing horn-rimmed glasses), who has his own motive for pursuing this nefarious MP, arranges asylum for Dima’s family. Along with clueless Perry and Gail, they take refuge in a ‘safe house’ in the Alps, but the Russian gangsters are hot on their trail.
“Why did you choose me?” Perry eventually inquires.
“There was no one else in the restaurant” is Dima’s ultimately logical reply.
Densely scripted by Hossein Amini (“Wings of a Dove”) and methodically directed by Susanna White (“Nanny McPhee”), it’s distinguished primarily by Anthony Dod Mantle’s stylish cinematography and solid performances, particularly from Stellan Sarsgard, who replaced originally cast Ralph Fiennes.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Our Kind of Traitor” is a subtle, stodgy 6, engaging but ultimately forgettable espionage.