In Marrakech, a British couple on the skids looking to reignite their stagnant marriage (an always slightly slimy but marginally honorable Ewan McGregor, the professor, and a delightful Naomie Harris, the barrister) accidentally befriend a bawdy yet charming Russian mobster (a smashingly good Stellan Skarsgard) and his brood of children in peril. Wouldn’t you know it that Russian guy is looking to have help delivering a secret bank file to MI6 and get safe passage for his family on the eve of a shady financial deal his boss would kill people to cover up. Once back in London, one British spy (Damien Lewis, nicely against type as the buttoned-up good guy) makes it his mission to use this information to bring down a certain MP (Jeremy Northam) involved in the corruption.
Susanna White’s jazzed up version of a John le Carre film adaptation is far better and more enjoyable than the ho-hum reviews and the movie’s own slickly off-putting first twenty minutes would have you believe. It takes awhile for White to find the film’s groove, but once she does, her clever camerawork (in perfect collusion with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle) compliments the story’s inherent intrigue and Hossein Amini’s workmanlike screenplay. Marcelo Zarvos’ score works well over the images both broodily sweeping (check out those French Alps!) and clandestinely bureaucratic (there’s one London stateroom with tiled floors to die for!).
Of course, everyone, spy and layman alike, has their own emotionally charged motives for doing what they do (McGregor’s professor, especially, seems to make some incredibily stupid decisions), but the little bits of backstory give the otherwise dry mechanics of the crooked dealings some weight. There’s nothing revolutionary or too shocking at play here, but for those who enjoy a good spy thriller, this one certainly fits the bill with just enough emotional involvement and artistic direction to make it memorable.
Written by David H. Schleicher