Posted May 17 2016
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Our Kind Of Traitor - This Le Carre Low-Key Rocks

Dir: Susannah White

Starring Ewan McGreogor, Stellan Skrasgard, Naomie Hrris, Damian Lewis, Jeremey Northam, Mark Gatiss

There’s been a bit of a revival of the world of Le Carre of late – from Gary Oldman’s Tinker Tailor to Phillip Seymour’s Most Wanted Man to Tom Hiddlestons’ all-pumping arse. Here we have Ewan McGregor in his remarkably winning everyman mode, and a slighter story. But one that still manages to find impact.

Said Scotsman is a uni lecturer, with a troubled marriage to lawyer Harris, in a film which manages to do that thing that all really good thrillers turn on – place an ordinary person in a life-threatening extra-ordinary (and the hyphen is deliberate) situation. And, as with all Le Carre’s work, this is a story of moral complexity rather than action and moment. As such, it works very well.

The basic gist is “PROFESSOR” Ewan (that’s how Skarsgard always says it) meets Russian mafia money man Stellan, who see some worthiness in what at that point is left of each other (Ewan’s an adulterer trying to save his marriage to Harris; Stellan – well, he’s done bad stuff but loves his kids) – and come together to save what they can.

Damian Lewis shows up brilliantly as a MI6 type who really would know better if it wasn’t so personal, and Harris fills in all the gaps.

But the real star here in White’s film is not the cast, not even Le Carre – it is the photography of digital pioneer Anthony Dod Mantle - and yes, we’ve sung the man’s prises many times before on these pages, but here he takes a solid thriller and elevates it into a thing of beauty. To be fair, he may have made the film look better than it actually is – but we’re in the mood to forgive.

This is that small scale, mid-budget, beautiful to look at it, very engrossing, character-based movie that they keep telling us they don’t make anymore. This – actually – is that. And all the more welcome for it.

 

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