Farewell (R13)

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The ViewWellington Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/04/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a fascinating and gripping story that packs a powerful emotional punch, thanks to a pair of terrific central performances from Guillaume Canet and Emir Kusturica.

What's it all about?
Directed by Christian Carion, Farewell (L'Affaire Farewell, original title fans) is loosely based on a true story and stars Guillaume Canet as Pierre Froment, a French engineer stationed in Moscow in 1981, who's asked to become a conduit for Colonel Sergei Grigoriev (Emir Kusturica), a KGB officer who's passing secrets to the West. Though their initial meeting is frosty at best, the two men eventually become friends and Pierre duly gains both the codename “Farewell” and an increased responsibility, since his non-spy-status means he's not on the KGB's radar.

However, as the relationship deepens between the two men, Pierre and Sergei both find their activities taking a toll on their family lives, with their wives (Alexandra Maria Lara and Ingeborga Dapkunaite, respectively) remaining in the dark as to their double lives. Meanwhile, Sergei's secrets make their way to the very top levels of government and soon become the subject of a high stakes power game that develops between newly elected Presidents Reagan (Fred Ward) and Mitterand (Philippe Magnan).

The Good
The performances are excellent, with Kusturica's imposing, bear-like, Russian physicality contrasting well with Canet's slender, bespectacled Frenchman; similarly, their conversations are extremely well written and acted and there's an intriguing chemistry between them that works well. In addition, there's strong support from Ward and Magnan (plus you've got to love a film that casts David Soul as Dick Cheney), while Dina Korzun adds an extra note of tension as Sergei's unpredictable mistress.

The script is genuinely fascinating, fictionalising and compositing the actual characters involved but remaining true to the heart of the story (historians now credit the Farewell affair with hastening the end of the Cold War), while creating an extremely tense atmosphere and a strong sense of the moral responsibility felt by both men.

The Great
Carion's direction is assured throughout, creating an intriguing blend of political thriller and emotional domestic drama but also finding time for some lovely off-the-wall moments, such as Sergei's son rocking out to Queen on a smuggled Sony Walkman in a secluded spot in the woods. The film also benefits from some exceptional production design work, as well as striking photography courtesy of cinematographer Walther Vanden Ende.

Worth seeing?
Farewell is a superbly made, genuinely fascinating cold war drama that's by turns suspenseful and moving. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 23/09/2019 21:24

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