This mesmerizing Cold War endgame pic is a tru-life spy story that might have been written by John Le Carré.* It’s largely about Sergei Gregoriev (well played by Emir Kusturica), a highly placed Russian official who proves his trustworthiness not by leaking Soviet secrets, but by showing how many contacts & how much intelligence has leeched from the U.S. to the U.S.S.R. President Reagan (a delighted Fred Ward) & his staff, especially the CIA (Willem Dafoe), are gobsmacked. Now that he has their attention, Gregoriev hopes to leak enough info to decimate Soviet intelligence operations. Not for money or revenge or a ticket to freedom, but because he believes it can get his beloved, but moribund country out of deadlock; basically, he’s doing it for his son. And he pulls this off, not thru the usual Spy vs Spy channels, but with the terrified assistance of a mid-level French official living in Moscow with his family (Guillaume Canet). It may look like domestic intrigue, but the stakes are as high as they come. Christian Carion, who helmed & co-scripted, does a beautiful job keeping the operations clear and ratcheting up the tension. Even better is how the film incorporates the complicated family lives of these men, and in showing how their heroic actions may have done more in bringing down the Iron Curtain than all the Reagan White House military defense spending could muster. A superb film, and a bit shocking to note that this exciting & important work didn’t rate a theatrical run in the States.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *A barely recognizable David Soul plays an aide to Reagan named Hatton, but he’s made up to look just like Lyn Nofzinger. He gets to sit with the Prez and watch THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE/’62. SPOILER ALERT!: They show who shot him!
DOUBLE-BILL: Why not try John Le Carré’s RUSSIA HOUSE/’90, Fred Schepisi helms Sean Connery & Michelle Pfieffer in a Tom Stoppard script. It’s an underrated film with similarities to this story. How much did Le Carré know?