Parents' Guide to

The Russia House

By Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Slow and dated spy drama has language, drinking.

Movie R 1990 123 minutes
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An unconvincing love story wrapped inside a spying drama that's as gray as a Moscow winter skyline, this John le Carré adaptation is slow, tedious, and instantly forgettable. With its stilted script and direction, perhaps The Russia House's main fault is that it does too good a job of portraying the long-winded dreariness of the bureaucracy behind state-sponsored intelligence. Connery has enough charm and glint to make Barley a presence whenever he's on screen. But becoming smitten with a woman half his age feels like very old and not particularly interesting news. This is hardly James Bond coming out of retirement, more a story with a male gaze that could do with updating the prescription of its bifocals.

Thankfully, Pfeiffer also has enough charisma to make Katya more interesting than just the foil for Barley that she appears to be on page. Their romance does add some credible complications to the mystery of whose side everybody is actually on, but it remains tawdry and predictable, robbing the movie of any real finale. While the location shoots in Russia were remarkable at the time for a Hollywood production, the rest of what's on-screen is the cinematic equivalent of slowly being frozen solid. There are plenty of memorable le Carré adaptations. The Russia House isn't one of them.

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