*** stars (out of four)
Novelist and former British intelligence officer John Le Carre made a career for himself writing spy novels that aren't about car chases or explosions, but the bleak realities of espionage. Susanna White’s Our Kind of Traitor is the latest Le Carre adaptation and it’s a diverting piece of counter-programming in the middle of blockbuster season.
Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris are a married couple on vacation in Morocco. One night in the hotel bar, McGregor is approached by a gregarious Russian (Stellan Skarsgaard) who invites him to a party. The two become friends and when it’s time for McGregor and Harris to return home, Skarsgaard reveals himself as an accountant for the Russian mob. He asks McGregor to give authorities a flash drive with information tying the Russian mob to prominent British officials in exchange for asylum. McGregor accepts, thinking he can drop off the drive and that will be all. But it proves much more complicated and the married couple end up the pawns of an unorthodox British agent (Damian Lewis).
The film moves briskly with Lewis and Skarsgaard as the standouts among the cast. Even though the movie adds a little more action than the book, it still feels grounded in reality, which has always been one of Le Carre’s strengths. It doesn’t have the power or poignancy of the terrific 2014 Le Carre adaptation A Most Wanted Man (Philip Seymour Hoffman’s second to last film) and tempers the darkness of its source material a tad. But it’s a solid thriller aimed at grownups amidst a season full of reboots and sequels.