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Our Kind of Traitor (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 107 minutes.

Not for children.

This is the type of thriller that Eric Ambler used to write, where an ordinary man suddenly finds himself involved with all kinds of international intrigue. I loved Ambler’s books and I loved this movie just as much.

This is one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in quite a while. Perry (Ewan McGregor) and his wife, Gail (Naomie Harris) are on vacation in Marrakech when Perry is befriended by a flamboyant Russian, Dima (Stellan Skarsgärd) and dragged into something beyond his ken. Dima invites them to parties and acts as if he is their best friend. But then he suddenly reveals who he is and why he needs them and they are plunged into the same kind of intrigue in which Ambler involved his ordinary people.

It is enhanced by some of the best background music (Marcello Zarvos) I’ve heard. It’s so good, in fact, that I was shaking with tension throughout the film, and that’s not just because it is so well directed by Susanna White based on a book by John LeCarré and a script by Hossein Amini, who also wrote the scripts for Drive (2011) and The Two Faces of January (2014), both films I enjoyed.

Adding to the quality of the movie is a fine performance by Damian Lewis, who is probably better known for his TV roles in Homeland and Billions. For those familiar with those shows, this is a different Damian Lewis, which indicates what a fine actor he is.

While all the performances are very good, the one that stands out is Skarsgärd because he portrays such an exuberant, full of life character.  He gives an unforgettable, Oscar®-quality performance.

Most films of international intrigue are enhanced by exotic locations, and this one is no different. In addition to Marrakech, the action takes place in London, Paris, Bern, and the French Alps; the film used 50 different locations and 90 sets, enhanced by the work of Production Designer Sarah Greenwood.

The cinematography (Anthony Dod Mantle) is beautiful, to say the least. Mantle worked with multiple, sometimes hidden, cameras to give each scene a unique perspective. Often director White didn’t even know where they were, and was surprised when she found some shots she had no idea she had.

There have only been a few standout films this year and this is one of them.