Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Jérôme Salle
Screenwriter: Caryl Ferey, Jérôme Salle
Cast: Gilles Lellouche, Joanna Kulig, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Michael Gor, Aleksey Gorbunov, Elisa Lasowski
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 12/23/22
Opens: January 27, 2023
There’s something you’ve got to understand about the Russians, which may explain in part why during the Cold War, their hostility toward the U.S. was not entirely because of our different economic systems. Nor were the bad relations caused simply by the competitiveness of the two most powerful nations. The Russians believe that the West is in decline; morally bankrupt because Western Europe and the United States are tolerant toward homosexuality and satiated by material goods.
As President Bush would say, “They hate our freedom.” This may explain why Brittney Griner, a lesbian with a wife at home, spent months in the penal system on a trumped-up charge. Taking advantage of the perceived weakness of the West, Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine, hoping to clean up a victory in just days, and making the biggest mistake of his life.
“Kompromat” helps to reinforce the above theory. More than a chase-thriller, “Kompromat” (the title refers to a document that is used to defame a person), is directed by Jérôme Salle, whose “Zulu” is a policier about two cops investigating the murder of a white woman. “Kompromat” could be called likewise a police drama, though it involves a major Russian FSB officer in Irkutsk, Siberia.
We in the movie audience cannot help cheering the bravery of Mathieu Roussel (Gilles Lellouch), the head of the Alliance Francaise in Irkutsk, a person you might think involved simply with unfolding French culture to the Russian people and making fellow French citizens feel at home—to the extent which that is possible in Siberia. As a European representative in a hostile land, he might be compared with another European, Volydymir Zelensky, who has been leading his Ukrainian people toward victory in their war with Russia.
The film, written by Caryl Ferey and the director, finds Roussel as emcee of a modern stage production featuring, in part, two male figures silently going through their steps on stage, including a scene of two men kissing. The show is in part what has infuriated the FSB, who is the father-in-law of Svetlana (Joanna Kulig), unhappily married in Irkutsk. When Roussel is spotted dancing with Svetlana, the FSB head is enraged, accusing the Frenchman of spying for his country—a charge as trumped-up as that leading to Griner’s imprisonment.
Much of the action is taken up by a chase scene between Roussel and FSB agents through the forest that separates Russia from Estonia. If Roussel could escape from the wolves and the agents bearing guns, he will be safe. The story opens in the near future as Roussel is dodging the authorities, a scene that should have been placed in the proper time frame as it gives away a major plot point.
Conversations in Russian with some French involve Roussel trying to talk his wife into remaining in Siberia, a romantic liaison with the beautiful but generally unsmiling Svetlana, and a desperate Roussel trying to convince the French ambassador in Moscow to stand up to the Russians and stop being conciliatory.
“Kompromat” is superbly acted by Gilles Lellouch, convincing as a hunted man and a cultural icon, and photographed in Lithuania by Mathias Boucard and Sacha Wiernik particularly impressive by the dark and muddy look of the woods.
127 minutes. © 2023 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online.
In Russian and French with English subtitles.
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – B+