Sunday, July 3, 2016

Our Kind of Traitor (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Our Kind of Traitor

The latest John le Carre film "Our Kind of Traitor" starring Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård has an existential echo. This is a good thing. It is swift and dynamic where the previous "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" became bogged down, lagging with character intrigue and complex exposition.

Here McGregor is Perry, a literature professor, an everyday person on holiday with his wife Gail (Naomie Harris) in Marrakesh. Perry wants to have a romantic dinner but Gail is pre-occupied with work and excuses herself. Dima (Skarsgård) sees Perry sitting alone and offers him a drink. He then invites Perry to a party. Perry reluctantly accepts.

The party is an odd libertine happening of sensual nudity and sex. Perry is offered cocaine by an alluring tall lady. He sees the lady being attacked during sex and Perry engages in a fight. He returns to his house sweaty with guilt.

The next day after a tennis game, Dima insists that Perry come to a birthday party. During the celebration, Dima tells Perry that he is a marked man. He is in fear of both his and his family's life, and he has the names of some Russian mafia and their back accounts. Would he please take a data chip back with him to London and MI-6?

A stupefied Perry agrees, emotionally reasoning that Dima is a good person, just up against it.

Stellan Skarsgård is terrific as the gruff, no nonsense and verbally profane man who feels that life has left him the bitter leftovers, but carries on in spite, while Ewan McGreggor is solid as the sensitive but oddly passive Perry.  Damian Lewis appears too as an agent that you may or may not, love to hate.

The two main performances make John le Carre into a Patricia Highsmith thriller as much as anything else. More than the political intrigue are the central questions of just what compels Perry to seek out Dima's company. Does he see Dima as a kind of alter ego? Is he envious? Does Dima live vicariously through Perry's comfortable life to experience security?

 The action is jolting with plenty of tension and no one scene feels superfluous or added for fluff. While on the surface, Dima might seem a stock character as a hired man with a burden, Skarsgård imbues his torment with a resigned angst that almost reaches the literary realms of Camus, not unlike Philip Seymour Hoffman's role in "A Most Wanted Man."

For those that like their espionage stripped bare, you won't be disappointed by "Our Kind of Traitor".  The cloak is all enveloping while the dagger is sharpened to a fine and caustic point, often dispensing with pleasantries.

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