The Seattle International Film Festival is now over, and as a Seattle-based film critic, I managed to get to only two movies. Thankfully, both were worth it. The second of two I saw on Saturday (note that this was the first day of over-75-degree weather Seattle has had since 2009) was a spy drama-thriller titled L-affaire Farewell, or, as us simple Americans like to call it, Farewell. The movie depicts the true story of a KGB agent who provided extremely sensitive intelligence to the West, intelligence that was so crippling it is labeled as "the beginning of the end" of the Soviet Union.
Farewell stars Guillaume Canet as Pierre Froment, a French engineer who is approached by Colonel Grigoriev (played by Emir Kusturica), a disenchanted KGB intelligence officer who has direct access to much of the Soviet Union's spy network, including the names of every key operative in the world. As Pierre passes on the information he receives to the French president as well as President Reagan, he forms an unlikely friendship with Grigoriev. But as the stakes get higher, so do the risks.
Farewell, from director Christian Carion, is a beautifully shot, well-acted drama that superbly captures the mood of 1980's Russia (not that I know what the mood felt like, per se) and delivers some realistic thrills. The movie is first and foremost a drama, but Carion masterfully builds the suspense layer by layer until it boils over in the exciting climax. The movie also gives interesting insight into one of the biggest espionage missions in the history of the Cold War, and according to the CIA spy who spoke after the screening of the film, it's fairly accurate.
The movie has few flaws, though it teeters on the edge of caricature with its depiction of Ronald Reagan, played by Fred Ward. Ward is a good actor, but his at-times goofy performance takes a little getting used to and seems out of place in this otherwise intimate story.
Farewell features strong performances by stars Canet and Kusturica and a captivating story of spies, friendship and Cold War politics. The movie is being released in select theaters later in the summer, but it truly deserves a wider release. Farewell is one of the best movies of 2010.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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