When I found out that this was based on a book, I immediately watched this trailer and thought, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” I feel like there aren’t many unique minds that capture such complex stories like these as novelists do compared to screenwriters. But either way, I was certainly intrigued. Ewan McGregor has been a great actor in my book, even since the days of the Star Wars prequels. Stellan Skarsgård is… hit or miss, depending on the material he’s given (THOR: THE DARK WORLD anyone?), but is generally a good actor. It looked like a well-crafted enough story with a ton of layers, but I was ready to see what this was all about. This is my honest opinion of OUR KIND OF TRAITOR.
The story follows couple Perry (Ewan McGregor), who’s a university professor, and Gail (Naomie Harris), who’s a lawyer. They’ve been having a hard time connecting lately, mostly because of Gail’s work schedule and Perry having had an affair with a student of his. In an attempt to reconnect, they go on holiday to Morroco. While at a restaurant, they meet a kindly but eccentric gentleman named Dima (Stellan Skarsgård). Inviting the two of them to a party, he pulls Perry aside to a private place and reveals that he’s actually a money launderer for the mafia, claiming himself to be the best. Well, the new leader of his group, The Prince (Grigoriy Dobrygin), is threatening Dima and his wife and children. Desperate for protection, he intends to hand off vital information to Perry to pass on to the British government. But politics and clever enemies prevent things from happening easily and the deeper in to this mess that Perry and Gail go, the more perilous everything becomes.
DISCLAIMER: I have never read the original book.
No joke, I think I missed the first five to ten minutes of this movie, something I very rarely do, so this review might be a tad unfair because I feel like I missed so much context, but here we go just the same.
Skarsgård is probably the standout of the movie, mostly because he’s given the most to work with, but even then his character feels really recycled. How many movies have there been throughout cinematic history about defectors selling out their partners or leaders for protection? He’s a ruthless, merciless killer and manipulator, but he’s a loving father and husband. I feel like there’s countless of these characters. I should go on record and say that he’s by no means a bad actor in the movie. Far from it. There’s just nothing that makes him a character that will stand the test of time, or even really in Skarsgård’s resume.
I suppose the only really great moments are when he’s interacting with his kids. Dima does seem like he has a great connection with his kids and some genuinely funny banter. About the only person in the family that serves no purpose was the wife. Pretty sure her only role in the movie was maintain her worry-face and have a three second scene of her crying. Seriously, what did she do in this movie? Did she even have a line?!
And speaking of underused actors, McGregor. Again, I love this man. I think he’s a great actor and has proven it time and again (REVENGE OF THE SITH, TRAINSPOTTING), but… am I the only one who feels like he’s constantly playing characters that get roped into situations by chance that he doesn’t want any real part of (MILES AHEAD, THE PHANTOM MENACE)? I feel like it’s getting repetitive. Not that it’s his fault or anything, a man’s gotta work, but… damn, Hollywood. Give this guy a juicier role! Once again, like Skarsgård, he’s not in any way giving a bad performance. Again, we’ve just seen this performance before, both from him, and a thousand times in other movies.
If you really want a broken heart, let’s talk about Harris. Dear fucking lord, this is a wonderful actress. She was the creepy crab goddess thing from the second and third PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, she was the bad-ass black chick in 28 DAYS LATER, she was the comedy relief Moneypenny in the two latest 007 Bond films, SKYFALL and SPECTRE… fuck you, Hollywood for giving this amazing woman this dull role. Seriously, I think Gail was pointless. Take her out of the story, let her stay at home while Perry does all this dangerous shit, and the movie would progress just the same. Yeah, Dima keeps requesting Gail to accompany Perry on all their undercover “ops,” but… fuck, man, all she does is stare at Perry lovingly when he shows off his convictions and make googily eyes when he’s being a good man. Again, she doesn’t really do anything. This is a role you could give to anybody. Literally anybody and it would have worked just as well. A moment of silence for Harris’ wasted time (her paycheck better have been sweet, or… I’m gonna complain about that too, by gum!).
I’m not even sure if I can even really talk about what I really liked. The only thing that prevented me from nodding off from boredom was the star power and performances that these actors are giving their all in. Maybe a few clever bits here and there, maybe one or two awesome scenes, but it just doesn’t make up for the lack of originality or anything that’s particularly exciting.
And the sad thing is, this movie has potential. I’m sure you bookworms could talk my ear off about how nuanced and complex the novel is by comparison, and I would believe you (so shut up), but that didn’t translate into the film. This movie could really have crafted a really great story about the complexities of right and wrong, the subtle consequences of walking away, the inner turmoil of a man completely out of his league all in the name of doing what he believes is right, there was some serious drama that could have been played up, but wasn’t. At the end of the day, it’s a pretty forgetful film. Unless you’re a fan of the cast, you probably won’t get too much out of it. For me, everyone prevents it from being awful, but it’s lack of drive to be anything great or memorable make for a poor experience. Not the worst, but I could live without seeing it a second time.
My honest rating: a weak 3/5
- THE BFG