The White Crow and Red Joan
Both films have an interesting theme that will come close to boring you to death before reaching its ultimate climax.
I’m joining both films together for a review for a simple reason. As noted in my Rating, both films are sluggish beyond words as they tell a meandering story that is likely to test your patience.
The White Crow, directed by Ralph Finnnes, tells the story of the fabulous ballet star Rudolph Nureyev who defected from the Soviet Union in the 1960s while performing in France. Red Joan, directed by Trevor Nunn, is based on a true story where an aging British physicist is arrested for passing along top-secret atomic information to the Soviet Union during and after WWII. While the plot of both films is obviously intriguing, each film laces its story line with regrettable boredom.
With Red Joan, the great Judi Dench plays Joan Stanley, the aging physicist who is arrested by English authorities in her own home. Most of the film deals with her interrogation, and Ms. Dench does little more than repeatedly stare into space.
What holds the film together is a solid performance from Sophie Cookson as the young Ms. Stanley, and you watch her develop a friendship with Sonya (Tereza Srboba), a Russian student studying in England and a subsequent love interest with Leo Galich (Tom Hughes), a Soviet citizen with treasonous intentions.
Without giving anything away, which would be close to impossible, Ms. Stanley decides to help pass along atomic secrets through her Russian friends given her appalling reaction to the horrible explosions in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Simply stated, she justifies her actions by putting the world on a level playing field where no one will explode these devices again.
With The White Crow, the only real value to the film is watching Oleg Ivanko play Nureyev in a spectacular fashion as you watch him perform both in practice and on stage. However, Nureyev turns out to be somewhat of an egotistical prick and he is a difficult individual to like in any fashion.
Mr. Finnes plays his original instructor, and he has to deal with Nureyev’s desire to interact with foreigners, something the Soviet Union tries to prevent. While you sympathize with Nureyev’s decision to defect from the Soviet Union, it would be hard to care if he was anything other than a legendary performer.
As expected, much of The White Crow is in Russian, which includes dialogue with Finnes himself. Ironically, reading the subtitles proves to be one of the more rewarding things about watching this movie.
As for Red Joan, Judi Dench’s character proves to be a traitor that you come to admire. While I left the theatre hoping to preserve a bit of comfort after watching this lackluster film, I sadly came to the conclusion that I would love almost any performance done by Ms. Dench.