Don't Believe the Packaging
The DVD packaging describes this movies as a thriller, and as if to
underline that, shows a picture of helicopters circling an exploding
van while a guy with a gun runs away.
This movie is not a thriller, and there are no explosions or
helicopters. (What was that on the packaging? Clip art?) When I'm in
the mood for explosions and helicopters, it's a disappointment to bring
home a movie that instead has as its big moments someone breaking down
a door or fingerprinting someone.
This movie is a rambling, disjointed drama. It wasn't completely awful,
but was like real life in that the story doesn't completely make sense
and doesn't work artistically. (And if they'd shown one more
Casablanca-esquire foggy airfield, I'd have screamed.) It's just a
bunch of confusing stuff that happens, and then other stuff happens,
and who cares about any of those people? And we spent the first 45
minutes trying to tell the various dark-haired women apart. Or maybe
they were all the same woman. Still don't know..
We'll Never Know
Why was this made? Perhaps because director Marek Kanievska had made
'Another Country' (1984) with Rupert Everett twenty years earlier? This
film purports to be a film about the stresses faced by Kim Philby's
second wife, Eleanor, in the face of her husband's defection to the
Soviet Union from Beirut. (Philby's first wife Aileen is not
portrayed.) For some bizarre reason, all the names in this film are
disguised. Incomprehensible! Sharon Stone plays Eleanor Philby, and the
emotional focus of the film is all about her. Rupert Everett plays
Philby (having played Burgess before!), and although he was physically
all wrong, being too tall, gangly, and haunted, he does very well.
There are countless errors in the film, not least the constant
reference to 'Russia' before people were using the name like that.
There is a great deal of misinformation about Philby flying around, and
this film does nothing to dispel any of it. Many people knew he was
unstable, a drunk, a bisexual (hence in those days a security risk),
and anything else besides. He was unquestionably protected in his job
despite all these drawbacks, which should have disqualified him. After
his defection to the Soviet Union, he lived comfortably in a four-room
flat (five room flats were reserved for the highest officials), and
went to work every day as a Colonel in the KGB. The idea that he was
sitting around as a lush wishing he could watch some cricket is
misinformation spread on purpose. Philby's coded message which he sent
back through an unofficial channel when he reached Moscow was: 'When I
arrived here the middle toes of both my feet were black.' Work that one
out, John le Carre! This film is entertaining viewing, has a good
performance also by Julian Wadham, and whiles away the time, as long as
you don't take it as gospel. Since we will never known the real truth
about any of these things, one fantasy is probably as good as any
other. Though why all the sympathy for Eleanor Philby? I can think of
worthier objects of pity for what Philby did to them..