Despite the Falling Snow

 

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An old-fashioned Cold War thriller from the novelist-director Shamim Sarif really doesn’t 

bear comparison to Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies.

 
Despite the Falling Snow

Polystyrene politics

 

As the Cold War once more tightens its grip upon the great nations of Russia and the US, a film adaptation of Shamim Sarif's 2004 novel might seem timely. Set partly in 1959 and partly in 1992, the film takes us from Moscow to New York as a beautiful spy, Katya (Rebecca Ferguson), risks her life to prise secrets out of a rising Communist bureaucrat called Alexander and sometimes Sacha (Sam Reid). Inevitably, there is a conflict of bodily fluids, and tragedy follows echoing footsteps until the terrible truth is revealed decades later.

 

You know what they say about scenarists never directing their own scripts? Well Shamim Sarif underscores this truism one step further by adapting her own book and then directing it as well. Sarif may be a master of the written word but she is no filmmaker. To call this thriller clunky would be an understatement – it is as credible as a Russian kangaroo.

 

The central character of the love-struck Alexander – or Sacha – is played in 1959 by Sam Reid, and in 1992 by Charles Dance. This is confusing on two fronts: the prominent scar on Sam Reid’s face disappears on the older visage of Charles Dance and the character, a small man in the Cold War of Moscow, grows a noticeable six inches in the New York of the 1990s. Suddenly, he’s towering over his old comrades. Besides, while the eponymous snow is much in evidence in the sky, it turns into polystyrene on the ground. Belgrade stands in for the Russian capital and is convincing enough, but the cut-glass English accent of Mr Reid (who is actually Australian) does rather jar. They used to make films like this in the Seventies, but today we expect a little more authenticity.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Rebecca Ferguson, Sam Reid, Charles Dance, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Anthony Head, Antje Traue, Ben Batt.

 

Dir Shamim Sarif, Pro Hanan Kattan, Screenplay Shamim Sarif, Ph David Johnson, Pro Des Mina Buric, Ed Masahiro Hirakubo, Music Rachel Portman, Costumes Momirka Bailovic.

 

Falling Snow/Enlightenment Productions/SK Enlightenment-Altitude Film Distribution. 

93 mins. UK/Canada. 2016. Rel: 15 April 2016. Cert. 12A.