When Peter and his girlfriend, Gail, cross paths with the charismatic Dima on their Moroccan holiday, the forceful Russian is quick to challenge Peter to a friendly game of tennis. But this innocuous contest is not all it seems - Dima is a long-time servant of the Russian mafia, whose new boss, 'The Prince', wants him and his family dead. His only hope is to ask the unsuspecting Peter to broker him sanctuary with the British intelligence services, in return for exposing a vein of corruption that runs right to the heart of the City of London. Soon they find themselves on a tortuous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps and, with the might of the Russian mafia closing in, begin to realise this particular match has the highest stakes of all.
I’ve always had a lot of time for the affable Ewan McGregor, from when he first exploded onto the screen in Trainspotting, lifted the forgettable Star Wars prequels, and went the long way round the world on a motorbike. Post Obi-Wan Kenobi he’s shone in underrated adult thrillers like The Ghost Writer and he’s done it again in the stylish and suspenseful Our Kind of Traitor.
Ewan is joined by a cracking supporting cast too - Miss Moneypenny herself Naomie Harris defects to another spy film and proves an equal match for McGregor, Homeland’s Damien Lewis does solid work performing in his native British tongue for once, but it’s Stellan Skarsgard who steals every scene as the Russian mafia man and has great fun with Ewan.
Now nothing beats a spy movie based on a book by spy maestro John le Carre. His adaptations have set the bar for smart and taut tales of espionage – from 1965’s The Spy Who Came in the From the Cold, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, and the recent brilliant TV series The Night Manager. His story of international money laundering continues the trend, not relying on action spy-movie set pieces but thrilling writing that ratchets up the suspense.
Kudos to director Susanna White too, mainly a TV gun for hire (she’s directed episodes of Boardwalk Empire, Billions and Masters of Sex) she steps up here and delivers a sultry slow-burn thriller for adults who might be a bit over brainless blockbusters. And she’s ably assisted by the Oscar-winning cinematographer of Slumdog Millionaire, who stylishly films intimate scenes and stunning locales in equal measure.
In a year of bloated comic-book blockbusters it’s nice to have an adult thriller that delivers an intricate plot with suspenseful storytelling, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s sultry as hell with a damn fine cast.
Releases: 18th August 2016
Duration: 107 minutes
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis, Saskia Reeves, Alicia von Rittberg
Director: Susanna White (Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang)
A. Belameh and R. Blackwell star in one scene at Emirates Stadium, which was filmed on the evening people were advised to stay indoors due to air pollution.
When the project was first announced, Mads Mikkelsen was a part of the cast. Mikkelsen previously starred as Le Chiffre in the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006) around a decade earlier.
The two actors who have both played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars film franchise, English actors Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness, have now both also appeared in filmed adaptations of novels by John le Carré. McGregor appears in Our Kind of Traitor (2016) while Guinness starred in the original Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) television series.