“Our Kind of Traitor”
Directed by Susanna White
Smart, intelligent, and well-paced movies meant for an adult audience (30-65) are so far and few between in the summer months, that it’s always a surprise when one shows its non-blockbuster face. Susanna White’s “Our Kind of Traitor” is that sort of film. It won’t blow you away and it’s not going to win any awards, but that’s not really the point. It’s just a good, old-fashioned spy thriller.
White’s directorial style, while a little uneven, is good enough. Sometimes extremely heavy-handed (see the last shot of the film) and sometimes utilizing a delightfully light touch, she manages to keep the chess pieces moving around the board in a manner that gives away little of the plot while filling in much of the characters’ inner lives. As a result, the stakes seem pretty high throughout. Of course, this is aided by Hossein Amini’s excellent adaptation of the well-loved John LeCarre novel. (Full Disclosure: I have not read the book, so I can’t communicate how faithful it may or may not be).
Of course, none of this goes without good, sometimes excellent, performances. Stellan Skarsgard, as our Russian antagonist, is simply sensational – the ferocity of his performance bringing to mind Sir Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan from “Sexy Beast”. Damian Lewis manages to channel the unreadable quality that often exists in LaCarre film adaptations (a la Gary Oldman in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”). The film is further aided by evil guys that are sufficiently evil. Ewan MacGregor and Naomie Harris are fine, but not spectacular, which is okay in the context of the film. LeCarre films are never really about the protagonist, but more the machinations swirling around them. But I will say that it’s essential we believe MacGregor’s Perry is an honorable man, and we do.
I think Marcelo Zarvos’ quiet score might be one of the best I’ve heard this year. Original, never redundant, and staying out of the way of the script, I found myself allowing it to draw me in to the action. And having listened to it since I screened the film, I can recommend it as something to listen to on its own.
When you’re trying to figure out what to see at the multi-plex on a weekend summers eve, and one of you wants to see the super-hero flick and the other wants to see the animated flick or the romance-du-jour, go see this. You’ll both feel you got your two hours worth. It’s very satisfying.
(No trailer…I feel it gives too much away…)
Written on July 4, 2016
(Happy 7th Birthday to my beloved Dewey)