starring Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Pryce
screenplay by Olen Steinhauer
directed by Janus Metz
by Walter Chaw Fred Schepisi's The Russia House is a dignified, austere, mature adaptation of John le Carré that feels like a Graham Greene in its colonial exhaustion and resignation. Sean Connery plays "Barley" Scott-Blair, a publisher pulled into a game of international intrigue as the CIA and MI6, from opposite sides of the pond, seek to make him and a young Russian, Katya (Michelle Pfeiffer), into pawns in a game of Cold War chess. Barley falls in love with Katya, of course; who wouldn't fall in love with Michelle Pfeiffer? And he plays both sides--well, all three sides--against the middle in order to secure a romantic future for himself and his lady fair. It's the best film Schepisi's made outside his native Australia, with a Jerry Goldsmith score (featuring Branford Marsalis on the soprano sax) that treats it as a bit of a chamber piece, like a story told to grandchildren when the danger has faded but the love's continued to bloom. They've heard it a million times, but let the old guy tell it: he seems so happy when he does. I've loved The Russia House ever since seeing it on Christmas in 1990. It's one of my comfort movies, twisty enough to engage with performances that feel lived-in like an old and beloved sweater.