When it comes to a John Le Carre story, you know that you’ll get a taught thriller, rooted in our fears of a corrupt reality, with sub-plots and flawed characters in a plot too complex to summarise quickly.
This time we have a British couple, Perry and Gail, (Ewen McGregor and Naomie Harris) on a holiday trying to save their 10-year marriage, when they meet the charismatic Dimar (Stellan Skarsgärd) who is a money launderer for the Russian mafia. He asks Perry a little favour which involves delivering a usb stick to the Secret Service which changes their lives – and that’s just the first 15 minutes! I haven’t even got to British agent, Hector, (Damian Lewis) with a vendetta or the ruthless Russian Mafioso.
This story only covers four continents, features no car chases, one shootout, and few fight scenes (although it was pleasant seeing Ewen carrying a gun instead of a lightsabre). This is poor by Bond standards but means it relies on tension, story and characters to keep up the pace, which it does very well.
Skarsgärd enjoys chewing up scenery and a few pieces get stuck in his throat while attempting his Russian accent. Ewen and Naomi receive pass marks but I wish they’d been introduced before filming; their chemistry is below frosty, but a huge part of the problem are the soapy lines they’re asked to deliver by script writer Hossain Amini (Drive). And Lewis as narky agent Hector is enjoyable.
But I wondered what Garry Oldman could do with a role like this… and why it wasn’t as top notch as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This is one of my misgivings of this film. It felt like the top student has handed in an average assignment, and you wonder what went wrong.
It’s still very good, a touch above many others, but it could and should of been top class. This feels a little rough, has a burn, but still worth enjoying.
Con’s Rating: 3.5 shots of Stoli