Treason review: A conventional spy thriller with few surprises

Charlie Cox stars in this new Netflix espionage thriller

Adam Lawrence (Charlie Cox) and Maddie Lawrence (Oona Chaplin) in Treason (Netflix)
Adam Lawrence (Charlie Cox) and Maddie Lawrence (Oona Chaplin) in Treason (Netflix)

Adam Lawrence (Charlie Cox) is looking to commit Treason in this new Netflix series which lands on Boxing Day.

Firstly, by filling the boots of his boss Sir Martin Angelis (Ciarán Hinds) following an assassination attempt, then secondly by navigating the treacherous waters of international espionage trying to protect his family.

However, beyond the undercover liaisons and convoluted catch-ups which make any spy thriller worth a watch, audiences will only be interested in one thing – can Charlie Cox pull it off? An answer, on this occasion, which strongly depends on whether audiences are fans of Daredevil or the actor himself.

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Conjured from thin air by Oscar-nominated scribe Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), this highly polished spy caper is kept on track by Charlie Cox. Facing off against older colleagues in the first five minutes, Adam Lawrence is press-ganged into prioritising professional choices over personal responsibilities. These are decisions that will define his time in office, whilst offering ammunition to those who seek power for themselves.

Sir Martin Angelis (Ciaran Hinds) in Treason (Netflix)
Sir Martin Angelis (Ciaran Hinds) in Treason (Netflix)

Treason starts with all the subterfuge and backbiting audiences would expect from any half decent example of this genre, but soon falls back into formula. Adam is established early on as a family man, surrounded by his son’s primary school class when he gets an unexpected call. Sir Martin has been poisoned and Adam must take over with immediate effect.

That the hit is part of a bigger plan should come as no surprise, since creator Matt Charman has already made audiences complicit in his introduction of Kara (Olga Kurylenko), an old love interest from Adam’s past, who has been instrumental in smoothing his path to promotional glory over several years. A fact which puts him in hot water when she starts demanding payback for all those professional favours, irrespective of whether he acknowledges them or not.

Watch a trailer for Treason

Coincidentally, his wife Maddie (Oona Chaplin) happens to have an old CIA buddy vacationing in the UK when this all kicks off. Dede (Tracy Ifeachor) is obviously not over here sightseeing, but instead stationed in London for surveillance purposes. As the plot thickens and Kara continues to demand more and more information from Adam, this show begins to lose its appeal.

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As the twists and turns mount up it all gets extremely obvious. Whether this comes down to the transparent kidnapping plot that targets Adam’s children, or the fact it lasts less than half an episode is up for debate.

That there seems to be little to no chemistry between Charlie Cox and Olga Kurylenko, also undermines their back story as ex-lovers. This of course happens before Adam is forced to reveal his past transgressions, hand in his notice and commit Treason to put things right.

Adam Lawrence (Charlie Cox) and Kara (Olga Kurylenko) in Treason (Netflix)
Adam Lawrence (Charlie Cox) and Kara (Olga Kurylenko) in Treason (Netflix)

How and why and when Adam manages to get all that done is academic in entertainment terms, since by then audiences have figured out that Charlie Cox can do anything. This actor, who learned his craft on stage and periodically returns to it, when possible, can handle more than just his own superhero franchise in Daredevil: Born Again.

On paper Treason sounds like a conventional spy thriller with few surprises, which unfortunately is exactly what audiences should expect come Boxing Day when it hits Netflix. Ciaran Hinds and Olga Kurylenko might offer solid support to Cox, who certainly seems to be on the ascension in terms of star status, but the fact remains this story is far from top tier material.

Dede (Tracy Ifeachor) in Treason (Netflix)
Dede (Tracy Ifeachor) in Treason (Netflix)

For the most part, this feels like a solid ensemble who recognise they might not be in an outstanding piece of work. Everything is by the numbers and ticks every box without any fuss, but ultimately Treason lacks any suspense, even if a propulsive soundtrack might suggest otherwise. Under these constraints there is little that Charlie Cox can do but get by on screen presence, since any semblance of plot seems incapable of helping him out.

From an Oscar nominated screenwriter, connected to a Steven Spielberg project like Bridge of Spies, audiences will expect something better. Unfortunately, Treason is supremely average in every aspect aside from soundtrack and ensemble casting. A better example of the genre which should be sought out immediately is Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy featuring Gary Oldman.

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However, in lieu of making the sensible decision and seeking out a quality espionage thriller of that ilk, Treason should only be considered by the fan faithful – namely anyone who wants to see Charlie Cox owning a mediocre Netflix original.

Everyone else should do themselves a favour and re-watch the Jason Bourne films, which at least made Matt Damon a movie star – even if Jeremy Renner let the side down a little bit.

Treason is available to stream exclusively on Netflix from 26 December.