Sunday 26 May 2024

Movie Review: The Russia House (1990)

Genre: Espionage Drama Romance  
Director: Fred Schepisi  
Starring: Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer, Klaus Maria Brandauer, James Fox, Roy Scheider, J.T. Walsh, John Mahoney  
Running Time: 122 minutes  

Synopsis: Go-between widow Katya Orlova (Michelle Pfeiffer) transmits notebooks filled with USSR nuclear weapons secrets to British book publisher "Barley" Scott Blair (Sean Connery), an admirer of Russian culture. As British and American security agencies probe the veracity of the intelligence, Barley suspects the notebooks originated from a literary acquaintance known only as Dante (Klaus Maria Brandauer). MI6 agent Ned (James Fox) presses Barley into service as an amateur spy to connect with Katya and uncover Dante's identity and motives.

What Works Well: Filmed predominantly in Russia, this adaptation of John le Carré's book enjoys lavish institutional scenery and methodical pacing. The absence of overt threats reflects the end of the Cold War era and the impact of glasnost and perestroika. Despite frequent time and location jumps, the plot remains accessible and largely coherent. Michelle Pfeiffer masters a Russian accent, and Sean Connery transitions from inebriated and frumpy to polished and intrepid. Klaus Maria Brandauer adds the soulful notes of a romantic trapped within militarized science.

What Does Not Work As Well: The 28 year difference between Connery and Pfeiffer obliviates any screen chemistry despite the script insisting on a languid romance. An interchangeable army of British and American intelligence officers portrayed by the likes of James Fox, Roy Scheider, J.T. Walsh, and John Mahoney frequently gathers to listen-in on wiretaps and await intelligence updates, but adds precious little in terms of value. The absence of any visible antagonist or potential for jeopardy defangs the drama into grey irrelevance.

Conclusion: Distinguished but stodgy.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.