Spy thrillers have a history of putting the wrong person in a situation he or she can’t get out of. That’s the entire premise of many stories and movies, as someone gets caught up in a bit of espionage that they have no expertise in, history with, or interest in. But circumstances keep them at the center of events as powers clash through their shadowy agents. Think of North By Northwest and how Cary Grant’s Thornhill keeps insisting that someone has the wrong man, only to be pulled along into a world he’s out of his depth in.
Now we have Our Kind of Traitor, which mines familiar territory. Ewan McGregor plays Perry, an unassuming teacher on holiday with his girlfriend Gail (Naomie Harris) in Morocco. At dinner one night he meets Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), who soon reveals he’s an accountant for the Russian mafia and he needs Perry’s help getting information to British Intelligence that could expose those who the mob has turned within the British government. In return he wants assurances his family will be brought to England and kept safe. All the while Perry keeps trying to get out but is constantly pulled back in by one situation or another until he’s in the thick of a chess match he has no experience with.
The movie’s one poster is pretty decent, even if it does rely on some hoary tropes. The four main characters are presented in distinct parts of the design, in separate picture elements that are sized according to their role in the story. Around those picture stripes are shots of various buildings and cityscapes, so we see Big Ben in London, the Kremlin in Moscow and so on, all of which are designed to give us an idea of *where* the movie takes place and sell the idea of it being about international espionage in some manner. The title treatment, cast list and credits, which include a call out of le Carre, are in the middle, between all the photos.
The first trailer starts off with a man and woman having a drink in a restaurant somewhere in the Middle East before they’re invited to have a drink with a random Russian. Soon the Russian hands the guy a thumb drive that he says contains information that needs to be handed over to MI6. That leads to a whole series of events that gets Perry and Gail more and more deeply involved in the negotiations between the Dima and Hector as the latter asks for more and more information and evidence and the former pleads that they take care of his family.
It’s a solid trailer that sells the movie as a high-stakes action thriller. I suspect, as is the case with most Le Carre stories, it’s much more talky than what’s on display here. But the trailer shows off as many tense driving sequences, hurried negotiations and so on as possible, all presented with super-dramatic music in the background.
Online and Social
The official website for the movie doesn’t have a lot going on, but it’s on-brand visually so it’s firmly in the “good enough” camp, opening with GIFs that work like the key art above, showing moving images from the trailer.
That “Trailer” is the next section, with just the one video there. “About the Film” has a synopsis of the story and information on the movie’s pedigree, including that it’s based on a le Carre novel.
You can find out more about the talent involved in the “Cast & Crew” section then finish it all off with “Photos,” which has several stills from the movie.
There are no social profiles linked to on the website, but the movie’s Facebook page is very video heavy, with lots of posts featuring the trailer and other, shorter videos.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing that I’ve seen.
Media and Publicity
There doesn’t seem to have been a big press push, but director Susanna White and costar Damien Lewis did a few appearances or interviews to talk about the movie and how it came about.
It’s not a huge campaign but it gets the job done. If you’re attracted to this sort of movie – if you really liked Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy a few years ago and prefer your spy movies more talkative than action-packed then this will have likely found you and should have at least sold it on a decent movie to watch on home video when it comes there in a few months. There’s nothing extraordinary about the campaign, but it sells the premise well and promises a good couple hours of watching people try to clear up misunderstandings, deal with being out of their depth and more.
It does, as I mentioned when talking about the trailer, play up the action elements of the story a bit too heavily for what the movie likely delivers on. John le Carre is known more for his dry, process-oriented spy stories than for big explosions and car chases, but those don’t make for great visuals. The campaign can’t really be faulted for that since it’s largely delivering what people expect but my hunch is that reality is a lot more talking and a lot less running than we’re led to believe here. Still, a solid campaign.