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Farewell (Blu-ray Review)

Farewell (L’affaire Farewell) is a 2009 French film based of off events that transpired in or around 1981 at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.  It is 2011 and Farewell, courtesy of Neo Classics Films,  has now seen the light of day on Blu-ray and DVD.  For all intents and purposes Why So Blu will be reviewing the Blu-ray release.  It’s been a very long time since we’ve reviewed a dye in the wool spy thriller, if ever, but I will go on record and say that Hollywood (or whoever) need to get back on the spy-espionage bandwagon, because if Farewell is any indication, the genre is ripe with new possibilities.   

Film 

Farewell is the codename of a Russian operative that may or may not have acted in the best interests of his country during the Cold War in 1981.  It all depends on who you ask.  President Reagan is already on record as saying “it was one of the most important espionage cases of the 20th century.”  France also played a part, and the former Soviet Union will tell you something along the lines of “we don’t know what you are talking about.”  All of this madness and intrigue wrapped up in a 2 hour hour movie leaves a lot of room for artistic license.  Did I mention that I loved the film, too?

Pierre Froment (Canet) is a French engineer who works and lives in Moscow that meets up with KGB Colonel Grigoriev (Kusturica) to exchange highly classified data.  Froment is a bit on the iffy side, because he knows he’s getting in way over his head and may put his family in danger.  Grigoriev is a rough and tumble kind of guy and sort of holds his hand through the exchanges.  In a limited, but much appreciated supporting role we have Fred Ward playing President Reagan to a T!  It’s a serious role, but also a role that focuses on him somewhat reliving his past as an actor by watching some of his old films while adding colorful commentary without making him look like a fool.  Willem Dafoe also shows up in Farewell as Feeney, Director of the CIA at the time.  Diane Kruger makes a cameo.  Let’s see if you can spot her.

Watching Farewell and seeing just how skillfully foreshadowing  (a term that you will see me use a lot) is used was a treat.  You will be introduced to many characters and a couple of them will make you scratch your head as to why they have so much screen time.  A “red herring perhaps?”  I’ll never tell.  I will say that the characterizations are pretty spot on and every single character, supporting and otherwise, are rich and have a high level of depth to them.  The viewer is thrust into their lives and are flies on wall from that moment on.  And that’s just during the first five minutes of the film!

The events in Farewell were the catalyst for the U.S. to start up the “Star Wars” weapon system soon thereafter.  There was a serious breach of security on a massive scale unlike the world had ever seen.  Well, to be honest, we didn’t see it, because that information would have been classified, but you get the point.  Russia spent an astronomical amount of their monetary resources in espionage or information theft while their people starved and lived in poverty.  The United States would do something like that later on (in weapons development/spending) that would end up eclipsing the former Soviet Union and ultimately bring down the Iron Curtain for all time.

Farewell is a great film.  I do wish that it would have been a bit longer, maybe by 20-30 minutes more.  Minus the credits it clocks in at just under two hours.  It’s a fascinating look at this twisted triangle involving Russia, France, and the United States.  Farewell is one of those movies that succeeds in using the “based on a true story” angle.  It’s justified.

Video 

Farewell is presented in 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen.  Farewell looks absolutely lovely.  There is a constant natural layer of grain throughout the entire film that enhances the cold, cloudy, and overcast weather in Russia.  You’d think that you were there shivering in the cold yourself.  Flesh tones look natural and depending on the temperature outside will look naturally flushed or nice and full in the warm interiors.  I did not detect instances of softness or heavy uses of DNR.  Skin textures looked great and so did the black levels which never crushed.  There are no serious problems with edge enhancement.  Can I just go on record and say that Farewell is a near reference disc when it comes to the video department?  Okay, I think I will.  

Audio 

Farewell is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Here’s a track for being a “quiet” espionage thriller that makes most action films sound weak or tame by a long shot.  Dialogue is super clear and crisp as are the left and right front channels.  The LFE rumbles when it needs to, but doesn’t take over or get in the way.  The real stars of the show are the rear surrounds.  There were times when I thought the neighbors were outside talking near my door.  I had to pause it a couple of times to make sure they weren’t.  Ambient sound effects are incredible and life like, dialogue and off screen chatter do come in with shocking clarity.  This is as much a blessing as it is a curse.  On a few occasions the surrounds did try to overtake the front channels.  Luckily, if you have a proper calibrated home theater and your speakers are at a proper distance you won’t have any problems with sound clashing.  If the surrounds do become a problem, which they weren’t for me, you can always turn down the rear surround volume on your receiver.  Just be aware that there is a “power struggle” with regards to the rear surrounds.

Special Features 

Sigh.  You gotta do what you gotta do.  Farewell comes with a U.S. trailer, a photo gallery, and previews of upcoming Neo Classics Films releases.  It might as well not have come with anything.

Final Thoughts 

Make no mistake Farewell is a spy-espionage-thriller masterpiece.  That part is true.  It’s unfortunate that this Blu-ray presentation gets bogged down for not having any supplemental features worth of note.  Farewell is in French and Russian with English subtitles and the English spoken parts with no subtitles.  If you’re into politics and world history or just like a good spy thriller then I encourage you to check out Farewell on Blu-ray.  It’s an important film that has now been immortalized on the high definition format.

 

Order Farewell on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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