Who can you trust with the truth? Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris are a couple drawn into a dangerous game of international espionage, caught between Stellan Skarsgard's money-launder, the Russian mafia, the British government, and Damian Lewis' ruthless MI6 agent.
There's nothing more exciting than a spy thriller that takes you deep inside the world of international banking. I'm being facetious, of course, but the sad fact of the matter is that 'Our Kind of Traitor', despite being an adaptation of a John le Carré novel and despite starring a collection of admirable actors, is pretty much a bore. Both movie and television adaptations of le Carré's work have almost always fallen under the category of slow burns, but this time around the match doesn't even get lit.
As the movie opens, viewers are introduced to English poetry professor Perry McKendrick (Ewan McGergor) and his wife, Gail (Naomie Harris), who are on holiday in Morocco hoping to patch up their failing marriage. While at dinner one night, Gail – who is a barrister (that's an attorney for us uneducated Americans) – has to leave to address a business-related call. Now by himself at his table, Perry is approached by a Russian man named Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), who invites Perry over to his own gathering and then invites him to a party.
Over the next several days, Dima brings both Perry and Gail into his inner circle – having them over to his home and introducing them to his family. When it comes time for the couple to head back to the United Kingdom, Dima asks Perry to deliver a flash drive to the British, which gives the names of UK officials who are involved with the Russian mafia (with whom Dima is involved). Upon their return home, Perry and Gail turn over the drive to a British official named Hector (Damian Lewis), who wants to continue to exploit Perry's friendship with Dima in order to obtain more information from him.
As it turns out, Dima is involved in a huge money-laundering scheme, which has already resulted in the assassination of a close associate and his family (seen in the movie's opening moments) and Dima hopes his exchange of information with the British government can be exchanged for political asylum for himself and his own family.
While I haven't read the novel upon which this movie is based, I'm guessing the biggest problem here is trying to condense le Carré's novel – whose storytelling always been slow and methodical – into an 108-minute runtime. Another issue is Ewan's character, who is not only of questionable morals to begin with (the reason his marriage is in trouble is because he cheated on his wife), but is perhaps one of the most dull leading characters I've seen in a movie this year. Obviously, the intent here is to portray Perry as an "everyman" thrown into international intrigue, but I never felt any attachment as a viewer to his character. Damian Lewis's character is equally uninteresting to watch.
If there's a bright spot to 'Our Kind of Traitor' it's in Stellan Skarsgård as Dima. When the character is first introduced, I figured he was just going to be another typical movie villian...not knowing that he wouldn't turn out to be the villain of this piece at all. Instead, he brings an energy and life to his performance that is really refreshing, but also has bursts of anger and violence to show that he still can be a very dangerous man. It's nice work by Skarsgård in an otherwise mediocre film.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Our Kind of Traitor' defects onto Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, which houses the 50GB disc along with an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet digital copy of the movie. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slides overtop. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for Indignation, Mechanic: Resurrection, 'American Pastoral', A Hologram for the King, and A Most Wanted Man. The main menu features a montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections horizontally across the bottom fourth of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
'Our Kind of Traitor' was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa XT Plus and provides the kind of image viewers would expect from a recently made movie filmed on the digital format. It is presented on home video in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Details are strong, facial features are well-defined, and black levels are solid throughout. There's also no major technical glitches with the transfer, and I didn't notice any glaring problems with aliasing, banding, or excessive noise.
Most of the issues I have with the image here are primarily associated with the cinematographer's choices, rather than the transfer itself. It will probably come as no surprise that this movie takes on the cool bluish/greyish look that have invaded most films in this genre for what seems like decades now. However, Director of Photography Anthony Dod Mantle (best known for films like Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days Later, as well as the recent Oliver Stone flick Snowden) seems obsessed with lens flaring and other odd reflections to the point where the movie is often less-than-pleasing to the eye. He allows colors to streak and smear throughout the movie, and I found his overall vision of what the presentation should look like to be a big distraction.
With the above in mind, there's nothing technically wrong with the transfer here, which provides a solid rendering of the intended cinematography for the movie. Lionsgate has been pretty consistent with providing solid A/V for their Blu-ray releases, and this title is no exception.
The only audio option here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and it's one of those aural experiences that doesn't do a whole lot to jump out at you (of course, much of that has to do with the tone of the movie itself), but after sitting through the movie, one realizes that there were no noticeable issues with the audio, either.
While the audio here never provides the fully immersive feeling that a well-rendered track provides, there are decent uses of the surrounds, particularly in crowd and action sequences. There's some mild LFE use, but never really the low 'booming' stuff that can rattle the walls around one's home theater. But dialogue is distinct and clear throughout, everything is more or less properly mixed, and there are no obvious glitches or problems with the track that I noted. A solid, if unspectacular, audio presentation.
In addition to the lossless track, subtitles are available in English, English SDH, and Spanish.
Even the most die-hard John le Carré fans are going to struggle to find something to enjoy about 'Our Kind of Traitor', a movie that – despite a strong cast and decent production values – never really manages to grab the viewer with an interesting or engaging story. This one's a disappointment. Skip it.