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Back in the USSR

East-West doesn't stray from the Cold War script

"When I was a child, the world was divided in two distinct blocks, the East (evil) and the West (good). It was s.ple…" Indeed, here is a film that is the very stuff of old school Cold War dramas, including a last minute dash for freedom at the embassy gate.

The year is 1946. Stalin launches a vast propaganda campaign aimed at Russian emigrants living in the West, offering them amnesty, a Soviet passport, and the chance to participate in the post-war reconstruction of the USSR. Returning home with his French wife Marie (Sandrine Bonnaire) and their son Serioja, idealist Alexei Golovine (Oleg Menchikov) discovers there is more than hard work awaiting his family. Accused of spying, Marie is under constant suspicion, yet nothing can diminish her desire to return to France. Feeling betrayed and alienated by her husband, she takes matters into her own hands and wins a promise of help from visiting French actress Gabrielle Develay (Catherine Deneuve).
Marie also befriends Sacha (Serguei Bodrov Jr.), a gifted swimmer who hopes that once selected for the national touring team, he can defect. These training sessions are vividly and beautifully brought to life, and are sure to delight any swimmers in the audience. Sent to a gulag for aiding his escape, Marie is considered 'rehabilitated' upon her release many years later, but eventually manages a desperate escape.

While the film is engaging, Wargnier's Soviet Union remains a place where good men dance and stumble to the whimsical tunes of Party members. The somber cinematography of a country forever cloaked in bleak winter suffused with Patrick Doyle's melancholic score serves Wargnier's purpose well, maybe a bit too well. In its attempt to exorcise the ghosts of Europe's forgotten stories, East-West falls back on an overs.plified political script that, with the exception of Oleg Menchikov's ambiguous Alexei, leaves little heart-felt pathos for its torch bearers.


rated PG-13
2 hours 1 minutes

Sandrine Bonnaire
Serguei Bodrov Jr
Oleg Menshikov
Ruben Tapiero
Catherine Deneuve