| This sparkling gem is based on the actual espionage operation with the titular code name that brought an end to the Cold War by destroying the Soviet intelligence network.
Director and co-writer Christian Carion (Oscar-nominated “Joyeux Noel”) has pulled off a major coup by casting in the lead roles acclaimed film directors Guillaume Canet (“Tell No One”) and Emir Kusturica (“The Widow of Saint-Pierre”), who deliver masterful emotional performances.
Senior KGB officer Sergei Grigoriev (Kusturica) wants to change the world. He realizes the current economic system in Russia is no longer working and wants a better future for his fellow Russians, especially his teenage son Igor. He has several clandestine meetings in Moscow beginning in April 1981 with Pierre Froment (Canet), a French engineer living in the Soviet Union. Grigoriev passes on vital information and documents that lay the groundwork for the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.
Froment’s boss has him serve as a go-between as a favor for DST, the French Secret Service. The use of the English word rather than “Adieu” is to throw the Russians off the scent and think that the CIA is behind the mission.
Despite the majority of the 113-minute running time consisting of dialogue-heavy talks between Grigoriev and Froment, the movie holds a fascination for the audience because it squarely puts the focus on the families of these two men, who develop a lasting bond of friendship.
Grigoriev suspects his wife, Natasha, is having an affair. He complicates matters by having a fling of his own with a KGB co-worker. Pierre is married to Jessica and has a young son and daughter. Jessica is worried about the family’s safety and wants Pierre to drop this dangerous assignment. “I married an engineer, not James Bond’” she says.
The movie jumps back and forth between these two families and does a great job in developing the characters. It makes you care deeply about the two protagonists.
The movie not only shows you the minute details, but also the bigger picture with conversations between French President Francois Mitterrand (Philippe Magnan) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan (Fred Ward). Willem Dafoe has an important part as well, playing the head of the CIA.
Grigoriev never wanted to defect or leave his homeland. He didn’t request any money for the priceless information. He only asked for brandy, champagne and a book of French poems for himself and a Sony Walkman and musical cassettes by the British rock band Queen for his son.
The movie has a nail-biting conclusion. This dramatic thriller has been favorably compared to the Oscar-winning foreign language film “The Lives of Others.” The dialogue is in French and Russian with English subtitles.
This little-known story that changed the Cold War forever is not to be missed during its exclusive limited engagement at the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"