5 May 2011 | horaceb
Super understated slow boiler (Spy Game Plus)
Farewell is a spy drama set in Moscow/Russia in the early 1980's. It stars Guillaume Canet and Emir Custarica, both noted directors in their own rights.It is based on real events with the basic story correct though the nature of the two leading characters and a few events are somewhat changed or omitted.
The plot centres around the leaking of Russian intelligence to the French government. Sergei (Canet) works for the Russian secret service but has been recruited by (or volunteered to) the French government to pass intelligence data from his office. Sergei is doing this for purely moral reasons arguing that it will one day bring the system down and give his son a better future. His contact is a French engineer working in Moscow, Pierre, coerced in to helping by the French government and operating as Sergei's dropping point. The story develops around the personal relationship between Sergei and Pierre and also that of their families. Sergei is confident and casual but ultimately a little careless. While Pierre becomes paranoid and with his young family in tow begins to feel the stress.
The data turns out to industrial espionage on everything from the Space Shuttle to the US defence strategy and even secret communication codes. When the American are shown the information by the French (in a neat piece of one-upmanship) it is only a matter of time before action has to be taken and lives are in danger.
The pace is slow and constant and never flat. Tantalisingly delicate, a very light brush from the director allows the actors to communicate in manner rarely seen in Hollywood films. Similar with the cinematography which is used sparingly and always to accentuate the story. Watch out for the early scene where they first meet which simply says 'spies'. Then the scenes of northern Russia in winter.
This is a very smart film with excellent understated performances from all the cast. Watch out for several more famous actors in cameo and small roles. Fred Ward playing Ronald Reagan looks positively weird though they get away with it.
If you arrived here before viewing be sure, it is well worth watching. Spy Game plus.