Film, Spies

Film: Farewell

March 4, 2012

Farewell (2009) is not on the Spy 100 list, but it could be — though I would probably relegate it to the lower ranks.  While classily made and historically interesting, it’s rather a slow, distancing thing.  Loosely based on real events, the story takes place in 1980s Moscow and involves a high-ranking KGB analyst named Sergei Gregoriev (Emir Kusturica), who becomes a traitor to the communist regime.  In the hopes of collapsing the government and initiating reform, Gregoriev begins passing vital military-industrial intelligence to the west, through an unlikely intermediary — French engineer Pierre Fremont (Guillaume Canet), a civilian he knows is above KGB suspicion.  With Fremont as a safe channel, the intelligence makes its way to a new French government, which passes it on to the U.S. to endear itself to the Reagan administration, thus accelerating the world-shaking changes of Glasnost.  But what of the individuals who made it happen?

It’s a competent Cold War puzzler, convincingly recreating the era, and I found it an interesting perspective on the period.  The production values, location work, and cinematography are top-notch.  That said, the film rather lacks energy, and thematically doesn’t add much to the canon:  individuals versus systems, idealism versus pragamatism, etc.  I found the depiction of real,  historical figures — particularly Fred Ward’s not entirely miscast pose as President Reagan — a bit jarring to the suspension of disbelief.  All in all, it’s a decent film, but one I couldn’t get too enthusiastic about.

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  • Catherine March 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    If you are interested in the details of that true story, and in the real-life characters (under their real names), the documentary that inspired Carion’s movie is available in English (NOT a spy novel, but the only repository to date of what’s known so far). It took 30 years to reach English speakers:

    http://www.amazon.com/Farewell-Greatest-Story-Twentieth-Century/dp/1611090261/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330358286&sr=1-1