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Our Kind of Traitor

Year: 2016
Production Co: StudioCanal
Director: Susanna White
Writer: John le Carré/Hossein Amini
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Naomie Harris

I feel like it would have been easy to identify this movie as being based on a work by John le Carré, and not just because of the plot full of international intrigue and danger.

Director Susanna White also adheres to a tone that will remind you of A Most Wanted Man and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (also by le Carré) – of a world of deeply entrenched global crime enterprise and the institutions that combat it, all of them spanning a modern Europe that's equal parts fusty tradition and trenchcoats as it is gleaming skyscrapers.

It starts with the kind of serendipity that uncovers a web of deceit that we're used to from le Carré, with university professor Perry (Ewan McGregor) and his lawyer wife Gail (Naomie Harris) on holiday when they meet powerful Russian mobster Dima (Stellan Skarsgård).

For a reason that's never completely clear, Dima asks them over for a drink, and with their marriage less than perfect thanks to a recent betrayal, Perry decides to sit down with Dima and his rough-looking friends.

After befriending Perry and hosting him at the kind of lavish engagements he could never hope to grace as a mere professor, Dima hands him a USB drive and asks him to deliver it to British intelligence. According to his new friend, it contains details of very incriminating and lucrative money-laundering, and he wants to give his paymasters up in exchange for political asylum in the UK.

Perry does so, meaning to do nothing more than drop it off at a police station and be done with it, but he soon finds himself dragged onto the front lines of a tense game between the Russian mafia gunning for Dima and the slimy MI6 agent Hector (Damian Lewis).

As Dima sweats waiting to see if England will deliver his family to safety, Hector sees it as a chance to net much bigger fish, and he ropes/coerces Perry into working with the service and trying to nab Dima's bosses at the same time.

Perry feels torn between his devotion to a man he believes has become his friend and suspicion at the motives of the spook handling him from MI6, mostly just not wanting to be mixed up in it all.

The premise is only a little bit plausible but White gives it all a sophisticated European feel that makes it look better than it has the right to and the realistic performances (including another larger than life character by Skarsgård) are enough to convince you to buy in.

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