Our Kind of Traitor, directed by Susanna White, is a film that fails to lead to anything of worth and delivers a film completely void of tension or substance. This is a film with potential in the beginning, there is an interesting style to it all, but unfortunately it gets lost in itself quickly and soon forgets to payoff anything that it at first seemed so intent on presenting to you. So let’s get this review under way and see what went wrong.
The story in the film revolves around university professor Perry Makepeace – played by Ewan McGregor – and his wife, Gail Perkins – played by Naomie Harris – as they are unexpectedly pulled into the dangerous world of the Russian Mafia. Dima – played by Stellan Skarsgård – wishes to escape the ever more dangerous world of the Mafia and hopes Perry Makepeace is his ticket out. Dima gives Perry a thumb-drive with sensitive information and tells him to hand it over to British Secret Service – in particular an agent of the service, Hector, who is played by Damian Lewis – in the hopes that the information can buy him and his family passage away from the dangers of home. However he has now only put them all on a path that is filled with dangerous consequences.
There are many problems with ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ but one that stands out immediately is the films lead protagonist, Professor Perry Makepeace. Not only does Ewan McGregor once again deliver a less than stimulating performance but his character is so confusing to keep up with, that I more than once found myself baffled as to reasoning behind his decisions or reactions to the events in the film. The circumstances that lead Perry to get tangled up with the Russian Mafia and the British Secret Service are fairly plausible in the beginning – I was on board and I was more than willing to go along with it all, but things soon took a dive into idiocy and poorly explained outcomes.
What also ends up ruining the watching the experience of the film is how it sets up things that are interesting in concept, but it then never pays them off or follows them through. The prime example of this is the relationship between the films two main protagonists, husband and wife Perry Makepeace and Gail Perkins. What is interesting about their introduction is that they are both attempting to rekindle their relationship after Perry had been caught cheating with one of his students (we never see this event, it is only referenced). This created an interesting dynamic between the two characters and it also made the first act of the film play out differently than usual. However, unfortunately the film just completely moves on from this conflict and by the second act, has more or less forgotten its existence. This is also not the only example of the film doing this, so as you can imagine, it gets a little annoying after a while.
I did find Damian Lewis’s character and performance to be intriguing. His character is driven and has a cadence to him that makes him stand out from the fest of the characters. But with everything in this film, he is let down by the script itself. His character doesn’t end up having much to work with, and just sort of disappears into the void that is ‘Our Kind of Traitor’.
There is certainly a point in this film where logic is thrown out, by both the storytelling and the characters themselves. The two protagonists get to a point of involvement in this film that is frankly comical. Watching a lawyer and a University Professor assist in a heist like mission to save a Russian Mafia man’s family is something that I (and the film) needed a lot more convincing on; rather than just one scene that is very light on any hint of explanation. For some reason, everything that the film set-up as seeming integral to the story or the characters, is quickly and abruptly abandoned, and in its place is backwards thinking and a deep disinterest on my part.
But perhaps the films biggest problem is the complete lack of tension. No matter the situation, no matter the stakes, I don’t think I ever once got excited or worried about the result of what I’m assuming were supposed to be a tense set of circumstances. This film never made me sit-up in my seat and invest in the actions of the characters. There are certainly moments that seem like they are supposed to be tense or thrilling, but man, did I not care at all. When it finally came time for the film to end and the credits to roll, I had no emotional response to anything that had happened. I just stood up, left the cinema, and went on with my day. Never once did this film pop back into my head; that’s usually a bad sign for sure.
Speaking of the ending; nothing of any real consequence comes from the end of this film. I also can’t think of a film from recent memory, which has had as flat of an ending as this one does. That may also be due to the fact that it is near impossible to invest yourself in a group of characters who feel invisible.
I usually like to find a positive angle when reviewing films, I’m not one who likes to focus on the bad stuff – these are films after all and I love watching them. But I struggle to find anything positive to talk about when considering ‘Our Kind of Traitor’. I guess the only thing would be that the film is in no way offensive in how bad it is; it’s just a bad film. Watching it on a lazy night in, when you’re scrolling through Netflix would be fine.
So yes, I will not be recommending ‘Our Kind of Traitor’. The film lacks anything of notable substance. This is a bland film that doesn’t make the effort to payoff anything that it sets-up, and in the end is a wasted opportunity.
Did you enjoy ‘Our Kind of Traitor’? Let me know in the comments down below. If you’d like be kept up-to-date with my other ramblings, you could either follow this blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle (handy little link there for ya). As always, thanks for taking the time to read this and have a wonderful week.