John le Carré stories are suddenly in vogue again, with numerous re-inventions bringing his dark and murky espionage/business world into public view again, here updated to accommodate modern events as required.
One might argue recent world events have made these themes not only plausible but relevant and urgent.
Following a brief prelude setting the scene for what could, might, probably will happen in the future we get to meet the central protagonists.
“Perry” (Ewan McGregor) is a University lecturer in poetry, married to a successful barrister “Gail” (Naomie Harris). Perry is attempting to save his marriage with a romantic holiday in Marrakesh, it’s not going well.
Left alone at dinner he is befriended by a Russian oligarch “Dima” (Stellan Skarsgård), all back slapping big bear of a man, friendly, loyal, family man yet part of the Russian Mafia with danger oozing from every pore.
Apart from hanging a sign on Dima with “stay away, no good will come of this”, all indications are that “normal” civilians should not get mixed up in this world.
However once drawn in like a moth to a flame, Perry comes to the notice of a shadowy intelligence officer “Luke” (Damian Lewis). Realising they could be a useful tool to further his own private agenda, before you know it the couple are acting as “rent-a-Bond” special agents.
The story takes in some exotic lush locations and showcases the usual Russian style gangsters albeit pursuing modern-day goals. Rather than world domination, this time banking licences in London, arguably not ultimately dissimilar .
The cast are plausible, Skarsgard makes a likeable rogue, chewing scenery at every opportunity. All bonhomie one moment and smashing bodyguards heads in the next. One must always remember this is a man who has succeeded through crime and hurting people, now he wants asylum and to protect his family, the irony of which should not be lost on the audience.
Quite why anyone would go to the lengths Perry and Gail go to, extending their human spirit too far. However, this makes for a good story and the film looks great on a minimal budget.
McGregor is a bit bland and Harris could do more given the opportunity as she attempts to hold the marriage together following an earlier event. Although quite why a highly qualified legal professional would go along with the events that transpire, is difficult to believe.
Like so many films, this could have been tighter and broadened it’s appeal with more time and a better screenplay but overall represents a fun diversion and is worth a watch.
An enjoyable spy romp that does away with cool gadgets, action sequences and fast cars and sets the action within a believable world view, albeit with a central conceit which stretches plausibility to breaking point.