johnlink ranks THE RUSSIA HOUSE (1990)

Between this film, RED HEAT, and RED DAWN, I am on quite the kick of twenty-plus-year-old films made in the winding down of the Cold War.  THE RUSSIA HOUSE stars Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, and has a script written by a favorite of mine, Tom Stoppard. So… Connery in an espionage flick spouting out Stoppard banter? I’m in!

I watched THE RUSSIA HOUSE (1990) on 12.21.10. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

This was shot on-location in Moscow, and the film certainly takes advantage of the beauty that affords. But really, this is a surprisingly small film in scope. It is a romance film first, and an intrigue film second. But that works to its advantage. The dialogue and the characters take center stage, and the plot is something on which to hang these characters. I like a film that works that way.

The structure of the climax is not a major surprise. There is a twist as we expect. But the content of the twist is surprising. It fits the characters, it fits the piece, and it certainly says something about the priorities of the world. This film doesn’t particularly trust Americans (or the British for that matter). It paints the Russians not as more evil or corrupt, but as more simple, and more straightforward. They are, according to Stoppard’s script, on the brink of becoming (in 1990 after the wall fell) all of the things wrong with American and Russian policy, and the goodness of the country is in danger of being left behind.

But all that said, the film skewers big ideas like that, instead thinking that individuals are what make up any entity. And whether it is Connery’s bluntly honest Brit, or Pfeiffer’s survivalist Russian (and she does a damn good Russian accent, she really falls into the role), it is the individual that is more important than the whole. In that way, it eschews Russian communist principle for a more American morality.

So the ideas in this film are complex. It tells us that we don’t have the answers, but that if we always remain true, to try and do the right thing, then we will always be on the correct path. And all of this is pouring out as I write, as I hadn’t thought of it before, because the film doesn’t beat you over the head thematically. Instead, it tells an entertaining story, gives us some characters we can really root for, some we can loathe (though it doesn’t totally demonize anyway, everybody has at least a moment of goodness), and takes us along for a good ride.

There are some awesome, awesome lines in this script. My favorite is when Pfeiffer asks Connery how she will know what he looks like when they meet. He responds “I’m easy to recognize. I look like a large unmade bed with a shopping bag attached.”

Now THAT is style. I wish Stoppard had written more for Connery, because they fit each other perfectly.


FILM: 7; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 8 (What is this?)



~ by johnlink00 on December 21, 2010.

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