(MA15+) Directed by Susanna White
Starring Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis

by Mark Hadley

In a world that has grown used to seeing its secret agents in the form of James Bond and Jason Bourne, Our Kind Of Traitor introduces a much more unusual, understated hero. He lacks the panache of a 007 and the deadliness of a Treadstone graduate, but the qualities its protagonist champions are much more in reach of the average man – if he can come to appreciate them.

Our Kind Of Traitor is based on the best-selling John le Carré novel, the same writer who created suspense-filled tales like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Constant Gardener.  A British couple are holidaying in Marakech, trying to rekindle the romance of their relationship after an unfortunate affair. Naomi Harris plays Gail, a top-flight barrister, and Ewan McGregor her university lecturer husband Perry. When Gail is called away by a work call, Perry is thrown into the company of Dima, a boisterous Russian played by Stellan Skarsgård. An expensive and exotic night follows, wherein Dima reveals that he is a financial controller for the Russian mafia. He and his family are likely to be eliminated as soon as he transfers the final accounts under his control – will Perry help to save their lives? All the ‘professor’ has to do is deliver a thumb drive to MI6 when he returns to London. However Perry’s fatal decision to help soon draws him and Gail into the orbit of conscienceless killers and international crime.

Our Kind Of Traitor is a plot that twists on the single value of honour. Dima is disgusted that his former comrades are planning to betray him, and simultaneously drawn to Perry because of determination to do the right thing. When the teacher sees a woman being taken advantage of at the party in Marakech, he leaps in, despite the fact that his opponent is a Russian hitman. The same motivation has him protecting a French girl from assault when he is alone in a room full of thugs. As his wife Gail observes:

 

“When [Dima] asked for your help I don’t think he imagined in his wildest dreams how far you would go for him.”

 

Time and again it is pointed out to Perry that he could just walk away from this potentially deadly situation – that this, in fact, would be what most people would do for people, “…you don’t even know.” But this everyman finds himself filling in the gaps of the MI6 plan because a greater ideal drives him.

 

“You don't know the people you defend – and you do everything you can for them whether they’re innocent or guilty.”

 

I found myself at times thinking that his film lacked the drive and thrill of the spy films that have become standard fare at the cinema these days. However, the reality is Our Kind Of Traitor proceeds at a more believable pace for a story based around normal people, and as such it has real everyday lessons to offer.

Integrity in Our Kind Of Traitor is defined as having the courage to stick to your decision, regardless of the consequences, and this also happens to be part of the Bible’s definition of a righteous man. Who is it that can look forward to living with God? Psalm 15 says:

 

“[One] who despises a vile person

    but honors those who fear the Lord;

who keeps an oath even when it hurts,

    and does not change their mind.” [1]

 

This is a constancy that is both easy to understand and instantly applicable to every adult: rejecting evil and embracing good, regardless of the consequences. It is deceptively simple, but profoundly powerful in its ability to shape your life. Rest assured, your neighbours and co-workers will mark you out long before the Russian mafia comes looking for you. However it is also well beyond our reach. Perry manages it for the duration of a movie, but he’s also guilty of cheating on his wife. In short, it is our best moments, not our everyday ones, that reflect this standard.

That being so, if we want to live with God, we are going to need someone more consistent than ourselves. The Psalmist was pointing forward to Jesus, the everyman who put himself in the line of fire for more than just one family. If we stand in his shadow, we will find his integrity is more than enough to save us. 

[1] Psalm 15:4, NIV

This article was originally published by Anglican Messenger. Click here to check out more Anglican Messenger.

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