Listening to Damian Lewis in Our Kind of Traitor, I realised that I had never heard him speak in his normal accent. In Band of Brothers, he was playing American. Same in Life, same in Homeland. And then, here he was in Le Carre, sounding hella posh and reminding me how weird acting is. Also, how posh Le Carre world is, whether you like it or not.
Well, most of the time. You can always rely on Le Carre to throw in one utterly vulgar person just for the contrast. Lest anyone think for a second that it’s an author cameo, Damian’s posho owns the one moment in the movie where Le Carre might as well have kicked a hole in the backdrop and strode through to declaim from stone tablets what’s wrong with the world. It’s not that I disagree with him, it’s just that, hell that wasn’t subtle. It’s the speech where Lewis points out that in sufficient volume, money doesn’t have a smell, for anyone who’s having difficulty following at home.
Of course, Damian’s only support; the heavy lifting is being done by Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgard. The last time I saw them together it gave me one of my favourite blog posts; there was so terribly much wrong with Angels and Demons that the review just soared on wings of other people’s idiocy. Ewan flailed with an impossible piece of balderdash; Stellan bought a place in my heart with his impeccable delivery of “We’re saved. The symbologist has arrived.”, a line which summarises everything Dan Browne thinks we ought to believe about his hero, and delivers it in the exact tone which the sentiment deserves.
Armed with a script based on a book by someone who can actually write, Ewan and Stellan are almost coasting in Our Kind of Traitor. Neither performance is exactly subtle, and Skarsgard in particular is capable of much more than he bothers with here, but since the characters were written to make sense in the first place, even coasting gives you people to root for.
That said, it’s a good thing you can root for the characters, since the money laundering plot swerves between impenetrable and not making a button of sense. Yes, there’s a boat load of money hidden hither and yon, and it has to be some place. I get that bit, and how important it would be to have one guy who’d know all the account numbers. It’s a bit more of a wrench to work out why the transfers of the money require big ceremonial signing sessions in bank offices full of notorious criminals who you’d think would be staying well away from the official side of things.