This 2015 movie is based on a novel by John le Carre, about civilian people in the world of espionage.
The story begins in Moscow, where the opening scene shows a vast expanse of snow-covered land, followed by wide-angled views of the highways and mountains in the distance. Next, we’re in Marrakech, where we’re introduced to the main character, Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), drinking at a bar where there’s a lot of Russian singing in the background.
Dima introduces himself to a couple on vacation there: Perry McKendrick (Ewan McGreggor) and his wife Gail (Naomie Harris). Perry is a professor of poetics at London University (there’re later scenes in which he quotes the poets T. S. Eliot and Wilfred Owen) and Gail is a barrister. Dima is flamboyant and charismatic, and wins Perry over with his ability to recite his (Perry’s) credit card number after only taking a glimpse at it. Perry falls under his spell, and Dima convinces Perry and Gail to attend his daughter’s birthday party.
At the party, Dima reveals to Perry that he is the Vory (a kingpin money launderer for the mafia which he controls) and wants Perry to bring something (a memory stick) back to MI6 in London. At the airport, Perry is detained for more than two hours, and only then Gail understands what is happening. Gail is furious, as she know everything has its consequences, even though Perry says he didn’t want her involved.
Obviously, Dima thinks Perry is a man of principles and wants him to be present at a meeting with the informants in Paris. What perks me up by now is not the story, but the locations in Paris – the metro, the Petit Palais, the Hotel Bellevue, the Einstein Museum, the Club des Dois (where they play tennis), a private hangar, even the motorway, a ride through the streets and a shady neighbourhood. The grandeur and epitome of luxury, the panoramic coastlines, views of mountains, hillsides and the sea view from the helicopter or train are sights to behold. Especially so is the French Alps, where many scenes are shot. And the only time classical music is used to enhance the atmosphere – Chopin’s Waltz No 10 in B minor Op 69 No 2. (The music used throughout the rest of the movie range from pop to rap to Moroccon music.)
Fans of John le Carre would love the intrigue, but I like the underlying theme that family is the only thing that matters in the end. I also like that the characters are well-portrayed, detailed and layered. There is something sensitive and vulnerable in everybody, notably Perry, Gail and even in larger-than-life Dima.