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4.1 out of 5 stars
Farewell [DVD]
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This is a French thriller based on the true story that helped bring an end to the `Cold War' and the dawning of `Perestroika'. It stars Emir Kusturika (Serbian film maker and actor responsible for, amongst others `Black Cat White Cat'Black Cat, White Cat [1998] [DVD] ). He plays Colonel Segei Gregoriev, who in 1981 had become totally disenchanted with the whole Soviet system. He was in a privileged position regarding intelligence, and so decides to change the future by giving vital information to the French.

He chose the French as he speaks the language having spent time there and falling in love with all things French, also the CIA are too closely monitored by the KGB to go unnoticed. As his contact he is sent a lowly cog in the big wheel of espionage, one Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet), who he initially rejects as an amateur, but realising all other contacts are known to Russian intelligence, he carries on and they soon form a bond.

The French then start sharing intel with the Americans and things start to move forward although with a fair amount of mistrust between Mitterrand and Reagan (Fred Ward). Reagan has David Soul as one of his aides and Willem Dafoe also plays a small part as a top CIA bad guy. That said there is not a single poor performance here everyone does a fantastic job. The camera shots are great and the attention to period detail is brilliant too especially all the old Russian cars. Froment is told early on that the KGB have everything bugged including all the bedrooms, and if you are not `getting some' then they will know and send someone after you - the moral is `if you want peace, then screw your wife'.

Director Christian Carion has elicited almost perfect performances and managed to weave a story that is both complicated and simple in its' execution. It is not a short film at 109 minutes, but it just shot by. This is a thriller there is some mild violence and some love interest but by no means is it an actioner. This should have received far more attention and I can not recommend it highly enough, it is nice to see Kusturica in front of the camera again too, but hope he gets behind one soon also. Just a quick mention, there are no extras on this DVD at all, but the film is so darn good you will not feel out of pocket.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
`Farewell' comes close to being a perfect Cold War spy story. It shares some of the themes of `Lives of Others' The Lives of Others [DVD] but is told with a wry, ironic sense of humour which elevates the atmosphere above the typically bleak and bitter outlook of life behind the collapsing Iron Curtain.
It's a French film set in Moscow, which works far better than you might think, which examines how the action of a KGB officer might have led to Gorbachev's eventual path of glasnost and perestroika. The action follows an unwilling French engineer who ends up carrying secrets across borders while lying to his family about his actions. The KGB Colonel tells lies to everyone automatically, and watches as his family life unravels in parallel with the collapse of the socialist ideals he still believes in.
The performances are superb; Willem Dafoe plays a small role perfectly as the Teflon-edged CIA chief, but the two males leads - French and Soviet - steal the show completely. The wildly unlikely relationship between a spy and his handler is beautifully portrayed: they can't be honest with their families or lovers, so they only have faith in each other. They throw tradecraft to the wind and take ridiculous risks, almost daring fate to stop them - the KGB Colonel is particularly distraught about what damage his actions must bring yet he knows them to be honourable, and at no time does he betray his ideals... only his government. Even as events spiral out of their control, the relationship between these two men deepens immensely, until the Russian knows (secondhand) the intimate secrets of his friend's marriage.
On top of all that, `Farewell' also examines the nature of the father-son relationship, and manages a nail-chewingly tense finale. The plot machinations are pure genius, more than worth of Le Carre at his peak.
One of the very best foreign language films of the year.
9/10
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2011
Why is it the French are so good at these thrillers? I went to see this at the cinema simply because of one good review in my newspaper. My wife and I were enthralled. This is a really good, gripping film - claimed to be based on fact - I don't know and really don't care - it seemed wholly realistic to me.

Don't want to spoil it for viewers by revealing any of the plot but just to say it deals with that time when the old soviet union was falling apart and Gorbachov was waiting in the wings (remarkable portrayal of him briefly in the film). And the CIA was spying and the Russians were spying - and there is one man who wants to reveal what is going on. Totally gripping, totally convincing.

It is well photographed, the tension is ratcheted up throughout; the acting is without exception great; the story seems to hold together; and you start breathing again as you leave the cinema.

OK a couple of things aren't quite right but they are very minor on the context of the whole. I went with my wife and we had planned to go home and work but we ended up crossing the road to a bar and having a glass of wine (French of course) to unwind and to discuss the film. Go see it or buy the DVD when it comes out - you won't regret it.

And to the first reviewer - well, I watched it and I don't know who David Soul played in the film. Maybe he has got old, bald and fat? (Edited to add: well there was a review that complained he couldn't see David Soul in the film - but the reviewer obviously had the good sense to remove it since at the time of writing the only other review shares my high opinion of the film)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Christian Carion's 2009 account of L'Affaire Farewell aka Farewell offers a welcome return to the early form he showed with Una Hirondelle a Fait le Printemps after the mawkish misfire of Joyeux Noel, albeit with very different subject matter. Like Joyeux Noel it takes a few liberties with history, but does it in a far more credible and engrossing fashion that ultimately becomes more affecting.

Vladimir Vetrov was a high-ranking KGB officer who became disillusioned with communism and in the early 80s passed on huge amounts of classified documents and the names of Soviet agents in the west through a French engineer, who in turn passed them on to France's internal security service (Vetrov didn't trust the CIA and knew France's external security was heavily infiltrated). As a result of his intelligence, hundreds of soviet agents were exposed and expelled from the west while Russia was fed with false information, allowing Reagan to play diplomatic hardball with Gorbachev. In the film's version of events he's thanked for his efforts by the Americans exposing his identity to protect their own network of spies behind the Iron Curtain, but the truth was more complicated. While the information that put the KGB on his trail did come from a source in American intelligence (presumed to be a Russian mole), Vetrov had already been arrested for stabbing his mistress and killing a policeman he thought had uncovered his espionage after the French had temporarily stopped using him because of concerns over his drinking, and it was in prison that Vetrov let slip in letters that he'd been involved in `something big.'

The film's Vetrov is a less complicated but more tortured affair than his real-life counterpart. Like the real man he doesn't want to defect or want money (though he does provide his French contact with a shopping list of Western goods instead) but is driven by ideological motives, hoping for a new revolution to give his increasingly estranged son a better future. While he is unfaithful to his wife, there's no hint of a violent nature, offering a more wistful, playful figure who treats much of it as a game he knows he's going to lose as soon as he starts. Emir Kusturica plays him like a slow but wily and amiable bear, making a striking contrast to Guillaume Canet's reluctant mouse-like contact, and the heart of the film is the growing relationship between the two, whether it's Farewell musing over the achievements and failures of communism, sharing his love of French poetry and music or teaching him the practicalities of everyday spycraft like taking pains to befriend the people assigned to follow you because they hate their job and will be easier to fool if they think someone actually likes them.

It's those kind of passing details that are often the most telling: the French giving him an English codename because if the KGB ever found out about Farewell they'd immediately assume he was working for the CIA, President Mitterand handing over Farewell's information to Reagan to override the latter's objections to sharing information with a government with communist ministers, or Farewell providing so many documents that dozens of them fly out of the car window as his contact reads through them. But underlying it all is the price of living in lies - particularly on the home front when you can't even let your family know what you're doing - and the way Canet finds himself learning to lie in spite of himself. At one point Farewell's son berates him for his constant lies, telling him "It's not just your job, it's your nature," and as the film progresses it becomes everyone else's nature too on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Although there's some tension in the film, it's really more of a character piece than a thriller, and when it's focussing on the Russian bear and the French mouse and their increasing pressure on their families the film is at its best. The impressive supporting cast all get their moments too: Niels Arestrup's French DST director, Willem Dafoe's CIA chief and, after a shaky start, Fred Ward pins down some of Ronald Reagan's more familiar mannerisms. Only David Soul lets the side down with a Mr Magoo-like turn as one of Reagan's advisors, but thankfully he's hardly in the film. It's also beautifully shot, albeit only partially filmed in Russia - the Russian Culture Minister had previously been the a minor diplomat in France until he was expelled because of Farewell's information and both convinced Carion's first choice Sergei Makovetsky not to appear in the film to avoid appearing a traitor to the Russian people and blocked shooting in Russia, although Carion did covertly shoot a few scenes on key locations by pretending to shoot a Coca Cola commercial. Plus ca change...

Universal's UK Blu-ray sadly has no extras (the non-English friendly French Blu-ray includes a director's commentary and documentary) but offers an excellent widescreen transfer with burned-in English subtitles for the French and Russian dialogue and optional additional hard of hearing subtitles for the English dialogue, something of a rarity on foreign films.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
'Farewell' comes close to being a perfect Cold War spy story.
It shares some of the themes of 'Lives of Others' The Lives of Others [DVD] but is told with a wry, ironic sense of humour which elevates the atmosphere above the typically bleak and bitter outlook of life behind the collapsing Iron Curtain.

It's a French film set in Moscow, which works far better than you might think, which examines how the action of a KGB officer might have led to Gorbachev's eventual path of glasnost and perestroika. The action follows an unwilling French engineer who ends up carrying secrets across borders while lying to his family about his actions. The KGB Colonel tells lies to everyone automatically, and watches as his family life unravels in parallel with the collapse of the socialist ideals he still believes in.
The performances are superb; Willem Dafoe plays a small role perfectly as the Teflon-edged CIA chief, but the two males leads - French and Soviet - steal the show completely. The wildly unlikely relationship between a spy and his handler is beautifully portrayed: they can't be honest with their families or lovers, so they only have faith in each other. They throw tradecraft to the wind and take ridiculous risks, almost daring fate to stop them - the KGB Colonel is particularly distraught about what damage his actions must bring yet he knows them to be honourable, and at no time does he betray his ideals... only his government. Even as events spiral out of their control, the relationship between these two men deepens immensely, until the Russian knows (secondhand) the intimate secrets of his friend's marriage.

On top of all that, 'Farewell' also examines the nature of the father-son relationship, and manages a nail-chewingly tense finale. The plot machinations are pure genius, more than worth of Le Carre at his peak.
One of the very best foreign language films of the year.
9/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
`Farewell' comes close to being a perfect Cold War spy story. It shares some of the themes of `Lives of Others' The Lives of Others [DVD] but is told with a wry, ironic sense of humour which elevates the atmosphere above the typically bleak and bitter outlook of life behind the collapsing Iron Curtain.
It's a French film set in Moscow, which works far better than you might think, which examines how the action of a KGB officer might have led to Gorbachev's eventual path of glasnost and perestroika. The action follows an unwilling French engineer who ends up carrying secrets across borders while lying to his family about his actions. The KGB Colonel tells lies to everyone automatically, and watches as his family life unravels in parallel with the collapse of the socialist ideals he still believes in.
The performances are superb; Willem Dafoe plays a small role perfectly as the Teflon-edged CIA chief, but the two males leads - French and Soviet - steal the show completely. The wildly unlikely relationship between a spy and his handler is beautifully portrayed: they can't be honest with their families or lovers, so they only have faith in each other. They throw tradecraft to the wind and take ridiculous risks, almost daring fate to stop them - the KGB Colonel is particularly distraught about what damage his actions must bring yet he knows them to be honourable, and at no time does he betray his ideals... only his government. Even as events spiral out of their control, the relationship between these two men deepens immensely, until the Russian knows (secondhand) the intimate secrets of his friend's marriage.
On top of all that, `Farewell' also examines the nature of the father-son relationship, and manages a nail-chewingly tense finale. The plot machinations are pure genius, more than worth of Le Carre at his peak.
One of the very best foreign language films of the year.

PLEASE NOTE; other versions are available, and the import is often rather more expensive...
9/10
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2011
This film grew on me. Not your typical action spy thriller but thrilling in its own way. I'm sure that there's been some degree of dramatic licence but overall the plot was convincing and realistic, helped by the fact that the characters speak in their own language (French, Russian and English) as they would have and subtitles are used. It certainly kept my attention throughout and I found the part at the end when the spy is reconciled with his son quite moving. Great acting. I didn't know anything (or couldn't remember)about this important episode of recent times so there is the plus of learning some contemporary history. If you are looking for an action-packed thriller then it's not for you but if you want a thoughtful, well directed and beautifully acted film with a gripping plot, then it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2012
This was a great little film and the acting by Guillaume Canet was top knotch.The audacious methodology of passing secrets was unbelieveable.The amount of material passed across was amazing.A good film that showed up the Americans for what they are - duplicious and quite ruthless even with their allies but in their favour they do know how to keep a secret.
A good film and one I will watch a few times more.
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on 17 January 2013
I adore love Cold War thrillers. The idea of a French view on the era - especially one based on a true story was enticing. I looked forward so much to watching it - conceivably, it could not live up to my expectations.

The cinematography was excellent; I really liked the look of the film. However, the American aspect of the story was very 'hammily' portrayed.

Whilst we patently have so much to thank the French for - they managed to appear extremely supercilious in this movie. Undoubtedly, it is of especial interest to see a Cold War film from a French perspective. However, it manages to convey a smug 'the French knew best' sanctimoniousness. Possibly they did, however, they have their own faux pas - e.g. 'Rainbow Warrior'.

I liked the film - but didn't get to like anybody in the film - and I think this was the failing for me. So, liked it - didn't love it.
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on 31 August 2013
We saw this movie at the theatre a while ago.
I remember enjoying it very much and thinking I need to see it again.
It was quite complex and took a while to sort out who was who and what was going on.
So we shall watch it soon and then send another review if required.
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