It is Moscow, 1981, and disillusioned KBG agent Sergei Gregoriev (played by acclaimed Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica) starts to smuggle top-secret documents out to the west via a reluctant French engineer named Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet). Based on actual events Farewell is a decent espionage film that highlights the role played by the French in the Cold War with the growing friendship between Gregoriev and Froment forming the heart of the film. While the Communist regime of the USSR is hardly presented in a flattering light, the Americans are also presented as self-centred manipulators.
The events depicted in Farewell contributed to the eventual fall of the Soviet Bloc but the film never fully impresses the magnitude of these events on to the audience. We are repeatedly told that what is happening is important but we don’t feel it. Writer/director Christian Carion’s previous film Joyeux Noël had the same problem where despite being competently made it should have had a bigger emotional impact considering its subject matter. There are some terrific moments of intrigue and tension but ultimately Farewell leaves you with a bitter aftertaste and a disappointed feeling over its lack of ambition.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 358, 2010