Now Out on DVD: Our Kind of Traitor is My Kind of Movie


The long wait is finally over! Even if you missed Our Kind of Traitor during its limited run in movie theaters this summer, you can now have it on DVD or stream it on Amazon or iTunes.

I was lucky to catch one of the preview screenings in New York and it was an exciting experience to see Damian Lewis for the first time on big screen! I am happy to report I LOVED the movie but again I love my movies slow-cooking and artsy with flawed characters that come across as puzzles. I love spending two hours in a movie theater figuring out the puzzles as the story unfolds on screen.

Adaptations of le Carré books on big and small screen, as far as my experience goes, are my kind of movies. They are not typical action/fantasy movies with lots of stunts and special effects. They give you intricate story lines, clever conversations, fishy agendas and gray areas instead. If you have seen The Constant Gardener, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Night Manager you know what I am talking about. And if you have not seen any le Carré earlier, Our Kind of Traitor is a good place to start!

Damian is spot on as he contrasts the world of le Carré with that of Ian Fleming (the world of the most famous MI6 agent!) in an interview with Sunday Post: “Fleming’s world of espionage is about fantasy and wish fulfillment, where as le Carré is interested in drawing stories from real time and culture.” And THAT IS exactly why I prefer the latter to the former.


I always think of screen adaptation as a form of “translation” from written language to visual/spoken language. A screenwriter needs to recreate the work and bring in his own interpretation while keeping the essence of the story. It is a challenge. And I applaud screenwriter Hossein Amini for doing a seamless job in adapting OKOT for the big screen. He streamlines a convoluted story with a number of moving parts and makes it quite accessible to the viewer. The deviations from the book are cleverly done and keeping some of the best lines from the book — even though some are delivered at different times and places than in the book — helps keep the spirit of the story and of the characters. I can confidently say OKOT the movie is as good as OKOT the book which NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani describes as “part vintage John le Carré and part Alfred Hitchcock” as well as the author’s most thrilling thriller in a long time.

OKOT sets the tone in its opening sequence where we witness the lavish life and the horrible death of a Russian mafia guy with his wife and daughter.

Then we go to Marrakech and meet Perry and Gail, a couple struggling to overcome a serious bump in their relationship on a romantic vacation. We see them at a fancy restaurant where Gail, a successful lawyer, needs to leave because of a phone call from work.


A big, loud and garrulous Russian by the name of Dima invites Perry first to taste some Château Pétrus and then to an extravagant Russian party. We find out Perry is teaching poetry at University of London. When he hesitates to go, Dima makes an offer: Professor will go to the party should Dima be able to remember his credit card number which he has seen once. Guess what? Dima wins!

Professor goes to the party and finds out who Dima was before he finds out who Dima is: Dima grew up with a mom who slept with KGB officers so her family could eat. Some men hurt her. Like the one, who, Dima found slapping his mom when he came home from school one day. Young Dima killed him.

After bonding over conversation, a round of tennis and yet another extravagant Russian party for Dima’s daughter’s 18th birthday, Dima shares with Perry who he is.

Dima washes money and makes people rich. However, when his boss dies, his son “The Prince” takes over and makes a deal with Kremlin. The new boss is now bringing The Arena Bank of Cyprus to London and transferring all accounts Dima and others used to run to the bank.


Dima is now the man who knows too much and a threat to Kremlin. He knows what happened to his best friend Misha (the murder we see in the opening scene) will happen to him once he transfers the accounts. The clock is ticking for him. Dima asks Perry to give a memory stick to MI6 from “number one money launderer.” He wants asylum in the UK for his family in exchange for “The Prince” and the names of British officials tied to him.

Perry  brings the memory stick with him to the UK. Hector Meredith from MI6 greets him at the airport with his own agenda and “medium-soft questions.” Hector is intrigued by the contents of the memory stick: Finding out his former boss and new MP Aubrey Longrigg is helping “The Prince” with opening the bank in London whets his appetite.


Hector is an old school MI6 agent with a moral code — he cites Kolakowski who has very strict views on good and evil as a favorite  — ready to fight against this corrupt system where the boundaries are blurred when government, big money and crime syndicates are concerned. But, of course, war against the Russian mafia is a war against Longrigg. War against Longrigg is a war against the government, and in turn against the system Hector himself is a part of. Winning this war is a long shot for him. Still, he’s such an idealistic character defined as some kind of “Savanorola” in the book: “…fanatical about reforming the service knowing that he will lose the battle even if he wins it.”

WHY? Hector is suitably enigmatic and makes us pay attention! We extract bits and pieces about him as he lets us into his world.


Hector is lonely. Both professionally and personally. These two are not necessarily separate and they together push him to get involved. We observe his loneliness turn into desperation when his hands are tied by his own institution. As much as he is a maverick, Hector does not have much discretion over making major decisions. Longrigg, even though he is out of MI6, still HAS.

Hector delivers some forceful speech at a meeting with his higher-ups. That is his last push in his one-man fight against the system that is hesitant to investigate a bank because it will bring billions of dollars into City of London:

“Blood money. That’s all it is… Doesn’t matter where. It can be in a box under a warlord’s bed in Somalia or in a City of London bank next to the vintage port. It doesn’t change colour. It’s still blood money.”

I cannot help wonder if Hector believes his words will get him what he wants. As much as they are powerful, words are words. And money is money. And power is power.

Stellan Skarsgard as larger-than-life Dima and Damian Lewis as Hector SHINE in the movie. They both bring a fabulous human touch to their characters and the movie comes into its own when either or both are on screen. And the two men have some fascinating parallels: They are both old school in what they do. Dima sees the mafia working with Kremlin as treason and Hector sees the government working with big money as treason. They both have personal stakes in this. And neither of them knows whom they can trust.

And then there is Perry, a go-between between Dima and Hector, who seems to trust Dima more than Hector. I don’t know if it is the script or Ewan McGregor who chooses to tone down the character but Perry in the movie is quite different than Perry in the book. Perry is an academic. His response is “a certain lack of imagination” when asked about why he is in academia. He has a long term relationship. His life is a routine. And he is clearly bored with it. This little spy story that he gets dragged into fascinates him in the book. As much as he is reluctant to have Gail involved, Perry himself is dying to be in the middle of it. And as much as he bonds with Dima and his family, the character Perry completely trusts in the book is Hector. For Perry, Hector cannot make a mistake. I have not been able to see THAT Perry on screen. He starts just right as a man with no enthusiasm and no energy but then does not change gears until the end. He comes across as lethargic.


So I would say it is Perry that deviates the most from his character in the book. However, when asked about which character in the movie deviates the most from that in the book at Time Out London Spy Weekenddirector Susanna White says it’s Hector. Hector is a gray-haired, late 50s MI6 agent in the book and Damian obviously does not look the part. White shares with us Damian offered to wear a wig but they thought it was not necessary since it is all about the character, not about his physical appearance. And even though she does not share the details, I have an educated guess about why they cast Damian as Hector: You feel Hector’s loneliness throughout the movie and his ambiguity enriches the story making him part of the puzzle. You long to figure out his true motives. And, Damian Lewis, being the KING of delivering ambiguity and loneliness together, makes perfect Hector!

What does Damian think about the movie and his character? Cara Buckley asks Damian about Our Kind of Traitor at Times Talks:

Damian argues this story of a load of dirty Russian money being used to set up a new Russian bank in London is a tale of London, but also of Manhattan, where multinational money is “stripping out the soul and heart of big cities.” As for Hector, Damian is intrigued by him motivated initially for personal reasons and then getting softened and caught up in the emotion of the story.


Buckley finds Hector’s accent “very tipped” and Damian shares a story: He has lunch with two spies at a Special Forces Club in London as part of his prep for the role: one is a public school product and the other one is a private school product. But they both sound SO POSH. It seems, he says, there is an institutionalized accent there.

At Spy Weekend, director Susanna White shared with us Damian was carrying the book all the time on the set picking and choosing bits from the book that he thought unlocked the character and asking if he could do this bit or that bit in the movie. I had the wonderful opportunity to ask Damian about what it was that unlocked Hector for him after his Times Talks in New York. You can see his answer starting at 2:36 below…

…and I am transcribing it here as well: “Yeah, I found him intriguing. I always have the source material with me if there is source material. I always take it around with me and I keep referring back to it all through the day. Hector… I think Hector is John le Carre’s voice. I think there is often a character in his books who is a maverick, iconoclastic character. I think he speaks the truth to authority, I think he doesn’t really like institutions, and I think that’s who Hector is within this story. So I was interested in playing for that reason. And interested a little bit like I was just saying in the talk: the dilemma between the personal need for vengeance, the governmental need to get to the bottom of this Russian mafia ring and then this third reason which he is dragged into reluctantly, which is to help these kids, which is a fare of the heart, which is complicated.”

I think Damian is right. Not because I believe everything he says is right, but because his observation is completely in line with what le Carré’s son Stephen Cornwell shared with us at Spy Weekend: His father radicalized with age and now believes this new world of big money and politics going hand in hand is the new cold war.

Let us know what you think about the movie! And pay attention to the museum scene, in particular the old man collecting visitors’ tickets. He is an important character: Well, he is Mr le Carré himself 😀 ENJOY!

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

16 thoughts on “Now Out on DVD: Our Kind of Traitor is My Kind of Movie”

  1. Finally! My DVD of OKOT arrived from Amazon today, so anyone reading this doesn’t have to guess very hard to figure out how I spent my evening! I like it, certainly enough to watch a couple of more times. Damian was the perfect cast for the Hector role, although I wouldn’t say that the reverse is true. That role didn’t allow him to show his full range of talent. That was always my complaint about Brides, although I know it was a favorite of many of his fans. (Fans of the fluffy, cotton tailed variety!). He looks terrific in a 3 piece suit, something we don’t see very often. ( I know Axe’s attire is part of his persona, but I don’t care for that sloppy, grungy look, no matter how expensive the t-shirts, etc.) Back to OKOT, love the Dima character, and Gail, not so impressed with Perry. However disappointed that Damian’s ginger locks seemed very toned down, but the glasses did a lot for the character I think. Since I have not read the book, I can’t make any comparison to the film. Just wish he would do some more film work, since I will never get to see him on stage. Does anyone know what black hole swallowed up Queen of the Desert? Can’t even find it on DVD.

    1. May I just say I LOVE your comment, Connie? Believe it or not, we had a similar evening tonight: we did a dinner and a movie date at home — my husband made pasta and we watched Our Kind of Traitor. I had watched it earlier but my husband was traveling and he missed it and it was of course my pleasure to accompany him 😀

      Our Kind of Traitor is a good spy movie – le Carre movies always do it for me because they are intricate and timely. I agree with you that the character does not give Damian an opportunity to show all his range, but yes he is the perfect cast to showcase Hector’s ambiguous side. In particular, I loved the scenes where Hector opened a little window to his life (I did not put spoilers in the review but I can talk about them in the comments!) One is when Hector comes to Gail and Perry (by the way Perry did not do much for me in the film, either!) on the train and talks about Kolakowski and his son. tThe other is the last conversation between Perry and Hector at Hector’s house. I think they are major scenes that show us the layers of the character and I know that Damian really wanted to do that last convo with Perry in the film which is actually their first convo in the book. Having read the book, I believe the screenwriter Hossein Amini did a GREAT job condensing a story with too many moving parts into a movie shorter than 2 hours.

      I am in complete agreement with you that Damian needs to do more film work. I am very happy about him getting back to stage — theater is his first love after all – but it is only the lucky few that get to see him on stage. A film’s reach is very wide and far in comparison. Talking about film… your question about Queen of the Desert: The producer said at some point that the movie would open in the US theaters late 2016 at some point but has not followed up on it. I am pretty sure it will come to DVD early 2017 at the latest.

      Finally: Brides. I love it. You are spot on again saying it does not let him show his range. True. But it is one opportunity to see Damian in a completely romantic mood and I am so glad to have seen it. But yeah I would not want him to spend a career in romantic films. I would take Keane over Brides.

      Thanks so much for your feedback, please keep it coming! All the best!

  2. Glad you mentioned Keane. I meant to include a comment about it before but signed off before I remembered. I hold just about everything he has done up to Keane for comparison. Of course it is in a class by itself and it is difficult to compare pieces of work when they are from genres that are polar opposites. I’ve always felt it deserved so much more recognition that it got. I also loved Colditz; the Nick character ( he is such a good “Nick”) gave him a decent range and his slide from the hero of the story into what he became, oh what the movies do for love, was just perfect for him. Perhaps sometime we should just create a blog listing his movies and asking everyone to give about a paragraph on each BTW, The Baker is also one of my favorites. It looked like so much fun!

    1. Your bar is very high, Connie! Keane is really up there and no wonder it convinced Homeland show creators about Damian’s talent and gave us Brody and, well, changed my life entirely! 🙂 Damian is proud of having made Keane for the right reasons, and he always jokes about Keane having been seen by 5 people. I completely agree with you the film does not have the recognition it deserves but it is unfortunately the fate of many GOOD American independent movies. I always think of cinema as art more than entertainment and so chase indie and foreign movies rather than big box office movies full of special effects and stunts but the mainstream movie goer does not. Still, I like the fact that Damian goes where the good writing is and gives us a movie like Keane.

      Yes, Yes, A BIG YES, for your idea about creating a blog listing his movies and asking fans to write a paragraph on them. Very cool idea! I am making a note! Thank you! <3

  3. Hola! Vi la película hace dos semanas en el cine, aquí en Rosario, mi ciudad. Tengo que confesar que no es el tipo de peli que iría a ver al cine. Nunca entendí demasiado el mundo de los espías, sin embargo aquí la trama está muy simple. O será que presté mas atención!…No puedo ser objetiva con respecto a Damian…él está brillante siempre y verlo en la gran pantalla fue maravilloso.Saludos.

    1. I am very good in understanding Spanish but not as good in writing so my reply is in English: I know Our Kind of Traitor, like all other movies with or without Damian, may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I typically like le Carre adaptations since they are, contrary to James Bond enterprise, are timely, intricate and political. I study politics after all 🙂 le Carre never gives you an optimistic view of the world, he is a pessimistic about where the world is going and that is what I like about his stories and the characters he brings to us. I, in particular, like in OKOT the parallels between the mafia guy and the MI6 guy where both are old school and do not know whom to trust anymore seeing that their governments are now in close relationship with the mafia! And, Damian, being the number one actor depicting ambiguity – is perfect as Hector. Thanks so much for your comment and for visiting and reading us. Cheers!

  4. I saw it a few times “our kind of traitor,” it’s not my favorite movie, but Damian, although Hector plays the character very well!
    I’ll buy the DVD!
    As said Connie, where Damian film is the most extraordinary is Keane and Homeland!
    But he is great in all his films, very moving in Brides, very romantic !!
    Damian can play anything, we know this,, producers Homeland, have understood, watching Keane! Last week, it was raining, so I stayed at home, and I Was watching Keane!
    As always, the same emotion, the same treat, I do not get tired of watching it !!
    What next DVD, I’ll watch?
    I do not know !! Advise me?

    1. Yes, I also think Keane is special. And it is not just us but we know Damian is also proud having made that movie and Keane brought us Brody! 🙂
      And I am completely with you that he is great in Brides, too. I also like Brides because the director could have made a very sentimental movie, but he avoids from sentimentality but keeps the romance (except for Niki having white hair in one night – that is a bit too sentimental for me, but I know it is possible in real life) So what should you watch after Keane? Hmmm… Keane, as much as it’s a great film, is dark and a bit depressing. Maybe something that will bring big laughters for a change? What about The Baker? <3

  5. Just finished OKOT for the 2nd time; it gets even better with each viewing. (Off subject for a moment, I cannot say that for the Silent Storm, the 2nd, viewing did not raise my opinion of it at all…..sorry.) Anyway, the DVD of OKOT was well worth the purchase in my opinion. Will now stash it away for another time, perhaps on some snowy winter’s evening in the months ahead! Oh yes, I recognized Saskia Reeves as Tamara, Dima’s wife, as the sister-in-law playing opposite Mark Ryland in Wolf Hall. So along with Mark Gatiss (Billy) who was Stephen Gardiner in WH, she is the 2nd person Damian has been with in a previous production. Well, third, since Ewan McGregor was in Stormbreaker. Perhaps more that I don’t recognize.

    1. Oh yes it was a pleasure to see a number of Wolf Hall actors in OKOT. OKOT is a good movie. It has not received the best reviews probably because (in my personal opinion) it is not the typical action spy movie. But I take a movie like OKOT over the 007 enterprise any day. I have not seen Stormbreaker so did not know about McGregor being in it, either. It seems that movie has an A-list cast.

      Smiling about The Silent Storm. You don’t need to be sorry, I don’t think we need to love every movie Damian is in. I liked Silent Storm and wrote 2000 words about why I liked it 🙂 On the other hand, I don’t think I would love every project Damian is in. Every project cannot be a home run. I have not seen Dreamcatcher, for example, and I cannot see myself liking it. It does not mean it is necessarily a bad movie, it is the personal taste that matters, and I know it is not my kind of movie. Or, Your Highness. I know it will not do it for me. But I will see them both because I want to know the entire body of work Damian did and I would love to complete Throwback Thursday to each and everyone of his works – it’s FUN! 🙂

      1. Damianista, I do urge you to see Dreamcatcher, not because it is such a great movie, but because Damian’s dual role and the way he slipped from one character to another was great. Other than An Unfinished Life, it is the only piece of his works that I have seen on the big screen. I like AUL, although his part was small, his interaction with Robert Redford was worth the watch. Oh yes, Your Highness.. I believe Damian said himself that it was a movie for 14yr. old boys. Yuck…perfectly awful! Although I am at a rather advanced age compared to the rest of the folks on here, I don’t consider myself a prude. Actually, it was amusing only because it was so BAD! The other one I didn’t care for was The Escapist. Although DL’s role was interesting and well done, I dislike that genre. Chromophobia was only mediocre, but The Baker was so much fun I have watched it over and over. Colditz rates high on my list as well. His American TV roles are in a class by themselves. Who could not love Charlie Crews? I still miss him after all these years!

        1. I certainly will see Dreamcatcher, Connie! I even have the DVD at home but I wanted to see his other work before that and it is taking time since I watch and then think about it and watch it again and write about it 🙂 For example, Friends and Crocodiles is a weird movie, I am sure many viewers would find it weird, but it is also weirdly funny that I like it. I also liked Chromophobia quite a bit, again a weird movie in many ways but there are bits to like about it. Your Highness should be a totally different story! I like the way Damian brings a villain to screen in The Escapist and, of course, the way he creates the character makes it even more interesting to watch 🙂 I like the prison break genre though, my favorites would be classics like The Butterfly and The Great Escape (is it a coincidence they are both Steve McQueen movies? haha) I think next on my list is An Unfinished Life — looking forward to meeting Mr. Gary Winston! And I will report back. We will make sure to cover all his screen as well as stage work on the blog. The thing is the guy just keeps us so busy with the new stuff that it is a bit difficult to go back to old work and study it. But we will certainly do that!

  6. I can’t say that I love all the movies of Damian, but I like Damian in all his movies!
    Dreamcacher, is not the kind of film that I love, but really Damian, as always, is great in it!
    I’d like to see “silent storm ” I don’t know if I please!
    If you look at the career of Damian, it’s really beautiful American series, that brought him his greatest successes, and his finest roles where his talent exploded!
    DoYou think that “Billions” will have the same success?
    I know that Damian got good reviews!

    1. Hahaha I have not dared watch Dreamcatcher myself yet, Monique! And I really hope you can get to see The Silent Storm. I know that it’s available on AmazonUK but I don’t know if it would have French subtitles.

      I believe Billions will have very good success – in fact, it already has, being the most watched first season of any show Showtime has ever made – including Homeland! I imagine the show is not everyone’s cup of tea because of the subject matter. But the thing is the show is much more than financial jargon and it is, above all, about complicated relationships and complicated lives They have a brilliant room of writers as well as a wonderful cast. And, yeah, Damian has got high grades from the reviewers 🙂 I am so looking forward to Season 2!

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