As told in this well-acted but plodding movie version, Sergei Gregoriev (Emir Kusterica), a KGB operative hungry for change, begins feeding secrets to Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet), a French engineer in Moscow, who in takes them to François Mitterrand (Philippe Magnan), who passes them to Ronald Reagan (Fred Ward). While in Moscow, the households of Gregoriev and Froment come under increasing strain from their secret professional – and personal – lives.
‘Farewell’ boasts a strong cast – Willem Dafoe pops up as a CIA chief and Niels Arestrup plays his French counterpart – and is strong on life in Soviet Moscow.
But as a thriller, it only takes off in the last 25 minutes or so when the focus tightens around the fate of our heroes. Before then, interest is dulled and momentum slowed by an awkward, unclear telling of the details of this complex plot. There’s also a conflict between bearing witness to the low-level operations of Gregoriev and Froment and the high-up reactions of the likes of Mitterrand and Reagan, who, distractingly, we see fuming over the French and watching westerns in the White House.