Treason on Netflix review: this breathless thriller lacks bite


V abounds with spy thrillers. In the mood for some Cold War drama? Try A Spy Among Friends. Prefer a modern-day thriller? Slow Horses might just scratch that itch. Or something a little more action-packed? Hell, there’s always James Bond.

With this in mind, Treason does its best to set itself apart from the pack by mixing personal family drama with the weighty issue of the security of the nation.

Adam Lawrence is our would-be hero. He’s sitting pretty as the deputy head of MI6, and is played with slick confidence by Charlie Cox (of Daredevil fame). However, all that changes when the head, Sir Martin Angelis, is poisoned and Adam must step up to the plate in his stead.

Unfortunately for Adam, that’s going to be difficult. Because the poisoner is none other than his former flame Kara (Olga Kurylenko), a rogue Russian intelligence agent. She’s masterminded Adam’s rise to the top from afar, and she has plans for him – as do several other shadowy agencies.

Dangerous: Olga Kurylenko as Kara

/ Netflix

For a character set up as an active intelligence agent (and oddly for somebody who appeared in the bloody, violent Daredevil) it is hard to believe Cox is a seasoned veteran; instead, he seems oddly naïve, tripped up at every turn as events spiral beyond his control.

By contrast, Kurylenko wears her confidence like a fur coat and plays Kara with an intriguing mix of ruthlessness and fragility. Driven and haunted, she easily steals every scene she’s in – and almost the entire show – in her quest to obtain answers from Adam by any means necessary.

The action proceeds at a frenetic pace: in the first two episodes there’s a kidnapping, a poisoning, a death, multiple betrayals and a spider’s web of lies that’s hard to keep pace with. There’s also a couple of rather perplexing or clichéd decisions – a lot of which are made by Adam’s suspicious wife, Maddy (Oona Chaplin) – that will prompt such vigorous eye-rolling that audiences will be in danger of spraining them. Secretly recording your husband and taking his quotes out of context is one of the oldest tricks in the drama book, and it’s tired.

However, the show also feels surprisingly pertinent: despite being filmed at the start of this year, the action centres around a leadership race where the Prime Minister is never explicitly named, but is called a coward and seems to be stepping down due to some shady business. There’s also the shadow of Russian interference – which hits the zeitgeist fairly well.

Suspicious: Oona Chaplin as Maddy

/ Ana Blumenkron

However, the MI6 setting feels wasted. Surely, the head of one of the best spy agencies in the world would have the latest tech at his fingertips, and an insanely busy workload to boot, but maybe I’ve just seen too much James Bond.

Instead, our peek inside this rarefied world of spies is largely just inane chatter about assets, a lot of sneaking around fellow agents’ houses and home security details who are outfoxed with almost insulting ease.

That’s not to say this is bad. It’s exciting, breathless and full of twists and turns but it doesn’t quite measure up to the other new spy offerings out there. Best of all, you don’t have to be that intelligent to watch it; best leave that up to the people on screen.

Treason will be streaming on Netflix from December 26

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