turns out Putin even ruined the Russian Mob. They used to be reasonable
gangsters a money launderer like Dima Vladimirovich Krasnov could do business with.
Unfortunately, the newly installed boss is far more vicious than any of the old
school Thieves By Law. Knowing his days are numbered, Krasnov reaches out to
the least imposing Brit he can find in Susanna White’s adaptation of the John
le Carré novel Our Kind of Traitor (trailer here), which opens
this Friday in New York.
Perkins is rather bent out of sorts when her husband Perry Makepeace allows the
free-spending Dima to whisk him away for a night of partying, but the Russian
can be persuasive. He is desperate, in fact. The money launderer is scheduled
to sign over his accounts to the entitled gangster heir, aptly dubbed Prince,
at which time, what happened to his colleague in the prologue will mostly likely
befall Dima and his family. Somehow Krasnov convinces the skittish Makepeace to
carry a list of names to British intelligence, much to the appalled surprise of
intel might just be too good. One of his names is Aubrey Longrigg, the
up-and-coming cabinet minister, with whom counter-intelligence specialist
Hector Meredith holds a deeply personal grudge. Krasnov promises the
corresponding account numbers in exchange for his family’s safety. Not one to
be deterred by skeptical bureaucrats, Meredith goes off the books, keeping his
close associates and Makepeace, the designated go-between, in the dark. However,
when the Longrigg’s political allies try to put the kibosh on the operation,
Makepeace and Perkins double-down with Meredith out of loyalty to Dima’s
the spectrum of le Carré adaptations, Traitor
is one of the better efforts without George Smiley. As Meredith, Damian
Lewis is no Sir Alec Guinness or Gary Oldman, but he is still more than the
equal of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was indeed the best thing about A Most Wanted Man.
it is Stellan Skarsgård who really propels the film as the flamboyant Krasnov.
Frankly, his wardrobe might be the film’s greatest special effect. Mark Gatiss
and Khalid Abdalla add further heft and flair portraying Meredith’s cloak-and-dagger
colleagues. Technically, Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris are the leads, but
their low energy bickering is the least interesting aspect of the film. Cinematographer
Anthony Dod Mantle gives it all the austere sheen of a Norman Foster building,
but Marcelo Zarvos score is disappointingly classy, in a non-descript sort of
many le Carré narratives, screenwriter Hossein Amini’s adaptation does not
bogged down in a lot of details. This is the rare le Carré that you watch for the
characters rather than the twists—and Skarsgård’s Dima is most definitely a
character. It also allows Meredith to take a stand against moral equivalency while
squarely planting the villain’s mustache on Putinist Russia. We’ll take that in
a le Carré film any day. Recommended with enthusiasm, Our Kind of Traitor opens this Friday (7/1) in New York at several theaters, including the AMC Empire, and in Brooklyn at BAM.
Labels: British Cinema, Damian Lewis, John le Carre, Stellan Skarsgard