Film: Farewell

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 — 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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