Hot Take: It feels like you walked up to the cinematic bar and asked the bartender for an Old Fashioned. A classic le Carre spy thriller with great performances especially Stellan Skarsgard.
Sometimes films transfer us back to a different time in many ways. At first, I thought Our Kind of Traitor transferred me back 15-20 years because I ran into someone I used to work with at Blockbuster Video who was also taking in the latest John la Carre novel adapted for the big screen. However, once the film started, Our Kind of Traitor felt like something from a different decade. As Stellan Skarsgard masterfully played a Russian money launderer ready to turn against the Russian Mafia who seeks out the help of Perry (Ewan McGregor), an average British citizen on holiday with his wife (Naomie Harris) to get damning evidence into the hands of the British government, Our Kind of Traitor delivers a cinematic experience reserved for another time in history.
While the topic feels somewhat timely with the current state of foreign affairs, Our Kind of Traitor feels like the past. Never does the film present a date which puts us in present time but the film could have easily flashed a year in the ’90s and none of us would have questioned the veracity of it. The good news is Our Kind of Traitor is more timeless than outdated as the movie works and works well.
The film isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of it that is far-fetched. Not that current films are full of accuracy and realism but there’s something about this one that is a throwback to a different time in movie making. Credit the actors and script for carrying the film through its most far-fetched moments. There are even moments late in the film that do their best to explain away the unrealistic plot and they do a modest job of at least minimizing the ridiculousness.
So, while Our Kind of Traitor is a little bit old fashioned and almost outdated and a throwback to a different type of spy thriller, it’s our kind of throwback.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Can’t Get Enough Stellan Skarsgard
Skarsgard is excellent as the Russian money launderer who realizes his family is in danger due to his nefarious career choice. He’s somewhat bigger than life in the role and has the inauspicious task of convincing the audience to care about a lifelong criminal. Credit Skarsgard for pulling it off.
- There’s Something About English Secret Agents
Damian Lewis plays Hector, a British Secret Service agent, who has designs on helping Skarsgard’s Dima bring down some high ranking British officials. There’s something just cool, calm and collected about Lewis’ Hector that is intriguing throughout the film.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Unnecessary Plot Twists
We’re given bits and pieces of a relationship on the rocks as Perry and Gayle start the film on holiday in Marrakech. The film doesn’t spend a lot of time on it but it’s always lurking on the periphery and the fact that this somehow works itself out behind the scenes makes you wonder why it is there at all. A guess would be the book the film is based on handles this in more depth and more fittingly as books often do when compared to their movie counterpart. This isn’t the only unnecessary plot twist but it is the most glaring example.
There are plenty of twists but there aren’t many surprises in store. This keeps the film from achieving anything more than slightly above average results.