[Film review] Kompromat

Review by John P. Harvey.

Though he doesn’t know how, Alliançe Francaise Russia’s French director, Mathieu (Gilles Lellouche), has poked the Russian bear.  At home in Moscow scant hours after hearing of his wife’s intent to return to France with their daughter, with or without him, he is dramatically arrested.  Targeted by Russia’s secret police, Russia’s dreaded Federal Security Service (FSB), charged with unthinkable crimes, placed under house arrest, and advised that regardless of the nonsensical case against him he will be found guilty and imprisoned, he faces a tough choice.  He can suffer a long term of imprisonment in a Russian hellhole as an innocent man, or he can attempt a difficult escape from Russia and risk being shot.

He’ll risk being shot.  But anyone who helps him takes a terrible risk too.

Kompromat racks up the tension as Mathieu, alone and easy to identify from television reports of his escape, finds his way across Russia toward the Estonian border.  With several sets of determined, armed officers in pursuit and little to help him but wits, luck, and the compassion of strangers, can he possibly make it out of the country alive?  And who else will the FSB catch?

Kompromat not only reminds us of the value of an independent judiciary and proper regard for evidence; it serves as a timely reminder too that a single centralised power, public or private, easily turns institutions that could support democracy and justice — the courts, mass communications, elections — into weapons to subvert those very things.

Atmospheric lighting heightening the predicament Mathieu and his allies find themselves in, the film’s nuanced acting leaves us as uncertain of its characters’ intentions as it leaves Mathieu.  You’re sure to leave this gripping film appreciating afresh the importance of the power of the few against the might of the many.  

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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