Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom/France, 2016. StudioCanal, Film4, Anton Capital Entertainment, Amazon Prime Instant Video, The Ink Factory, Potboiler Productions. Screenplay by Hossein Amini, based on the novel by John Le Carre. Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle. Produced by Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan. Music by Marcelo Zarvos. Production Design by Sarah Greenwood. Costume Design by Julian Day. Film Editing by Tariq Anwar, Lucia Zucchetti.
An English professor (Ewan McGregor) and his lawyer wife (Naomie Harris) are on vacation in Morocco trying to restore the lost passion in their marriage when a late night at a bar puts our hero in the way of a charismatic and shady Russian (Stellan Skarsgård). They’re friends only briefly before Skarsgard asks McGregor to do him a favour that puts his life in danger: he is an accountant to powerful gangsters whose corruption goes all the way up to the Russian royal family, and he wants to give the Englishman information about his bosses’ money laundering that can help secure safe passage out Russia for him and his family. McGregor feels compelled to agree to help, which then leads to the kind of tense shell game operations and nick-of-time saves that glossy political thrillers have been using as audience bait since the genre was born. Energetic direction and a terrific cast keep the familiarity from hurting but, make no mistake, there is nothing original about this one: John Le Carre’s narratives are always about a regular man in irregular circumstances, it’s the locations that tend to shift, utilizing as many familiar gimmicks and manipulative enticements as can be found in the James Bond films that Le Carre’s stories are so snobbily proud of not being. It’s hard not to root for McGregor when he’s in a pinch, though, and making sure you see it through is a satisfying and pleasurable experience.