A movie directed by Jason Reitman
This World War I fantasy/drama follows Lt. John Boles, a decorated Canadian soldier who travels to Russia where he happens upon a woman who may or may not be his dead fiancee. The woman is plagued with amnesia and has another suitor with a similar affliction. … see full wiki
I had to make myself finish this film.
Daniel Craig plays Dr. Fluke Kelso who is in Russia giving lectures on Stalin and the horrors of Soviet Communism. At one lecture, an old man explains that he doesn’t know anything about Stalin and tells him the story about how he buried some secret Stalin papers when the old man was an enlisted soldier in the Soviet Army. From here a brutal search for the documents begins and an attempt by a shadowy group of people drive the predictable plot tries to keep pace. In a way to explain the plot without giving it away: the papers seem to indicate an illegitimate son of Comrade Stalin who, if he exists, would help usher Russia back to the Soviet era. For the sake of not spoiling the plot I will go no further.
This is a BBC production. One thing can be said of any BBC made for television movie (especially if the plot involves a mystery or is part of a mystery series), the acting is always top notch. For some reason, the Brits take their made for television films with far more aplomb than Americans whose made for television movies is just a way of saying a film that is even lower than a B movie in the theaters.
My problem is that all of the performances were wasted. The mystery was too easily resolved; this left large amounts of time for an attempt at creating a sense of intrigue that were so deeply contrived that I had to force myself into it. I got the feeling I had seen this plot line so often that it seemed that the story was on auto-pilot.
Movies this weak fill my head with mixed metaphors; so I ask for forgiveness in advance if what I create is a smoothie from them. The attempt to build fear rather than just the standard suspenses of success/failure, death/survival were, to use a Britishism “weak as water.” The fear was added so late that it could not save the patient; it only served to make him sicker. It also happened so fast that it seemed that the filmmakers realized they were going to pull up 30 minutes short if they didn’t add anything. In American versions of the story, generally they add a puppy (even if it doesn’t make sense—everyone likes puppies, right?). In the British versions, and face it no one does detective stories like the Brits—they may not be able to make a reliable car, their deserts can often leave a bit to be desired, but they can make mysteries and detective stories so rich and comprehensively complex that they are their own drug—they either have to add another red herring or they have to extend the mystery by discovering a new item that forces them to rethink the plan.
Archangel is also a movie out of its era. I have mentioned before that movies about AIDS now are more quaint than frightening. After 1996, the plethora of AIDS related plays that many were desperately trying to make into films, stopped making real sense. Now, about a dozen years after the famous cocktail whose recipe of drugs has changed over the years, an AIDS movie can be historical and still elicit some fear and trembling. Jeffrey is the film I point to most. It was a half-dark comedy (as a play in the early 1990s) centering around fear of the disease; when it was released as a film, many of were breathing easier because of the success in the cocktail increasing the quality of life of longtime sufferers. Archangel plays off of a fear that seems not to be relevant; a return to a Stalinist type of Soviet society. This might be more frightening to Europeans, but it doesn’t play the same way in the US. We have notoriously short attention spans (by stereotype), so many of us would see it and say, isn’t that crap over—wasn’t that, like, more than half an hour ago?
So it is possible that the film could have been relevant if it had been filmed in 1992. At that point, the possibility that the Cold War was over was still on shaky ground. But 2005? Yes, Russian society is unstable at the moment and that doesn’t bode well; however, this does not mean that we are going to face anything like the Cold War again. If republicanism or democracy (whatever form of government is there now) fails, this does not mean an automatic return to the Cold War days; the options now are legion and a return to Soviet era communism is just one option of many. Give this context, Archangel simply failed to deliver the goods.
If you like Daniel Craig or you like seeing Russian snow (of which there is plenty enough to cool even the warmest room metaphorically/psychosomatically) then this will be an acceptable two hours. If neither of these is true, then skip over this one.
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