The movie version of John le Carré’s overrated novel The Russia House has the virtue of taking the book’s attenuated, somewhat impenetrable plot and making it accessible. A boozy British publisher (Sean Connery), who reluctantly serves as a go-between for British and American intelligence, falls in love with the Russian woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) he’s supposed to deceive. On video, it’s much more palatable than in the theater: The leisurely pacing is the equivalent of settling down for a good read.
Although directed with some skill by Fred Schepisi (Roxanne), the movie polishes both Le Carré’s recycled angst and its main setting, Moscow, with too much Hollywood gloss. Connery and Pfeiffer are altogether too glamorous to play Le Carré’s anonymous characters. And although Moscow, shot through softening lenses to emphasize pastel tones, is many things, pretty is just not one of them. The Russia House turns out to be a lie about both an enigmatic place and a pivotal time in its history. C