Farewell, Christian Carion, 113 mins (12A)
Insidious, James Wan, 102 mins (15)

The spy who came in for some cold champagne

These days the act of spying, of obtaining information on the sly, seems to have been lost in celluloid espionage.

The Bonds and the Smiths and the Salts (and to a lesser extent the Bournes) rely on adrenalin, not psychology or stealth, to engage us. It can become wearing.

So it's heartening to see a return by some filmmakers to the substance and modes of the Cold War. The film that's most whetting my appetite is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, with Gary Oldman as Smiley. Meanwhile, as a tasty primer, we have Farewell.

Based on the real-life Farewell Affair of the early 1980s, it concerns the decision by a KGB colonel to smuggle thousands of secret documents to the West, using as his conduit a French engineer stationed in Moscow. The pair are quite the odd couple. Sergei Gregoriev (Emir Kusturica) is the droll defector, an idealist who knows his country must reboot itself, asking in return not for asylum, or cash, but champagne and French poetry. The other is nervous, tetchy Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet), seduced by the charismatic Russian into risking the safety of his family.

The film is a hoot as it charts Gregoriev's nonchalant approach to treason, handing over stolen papers in parks, in cars, and while taking photos for tourists at a Communist monument. But director Christian Carion never allows us to forget that what seems mundane is also extremely dangerous. He moves deftly between the personal (as the habit of deceit invades both men's family lives) and the political, with first François Mitterrand, then Ronald Reagan (a colourful turn by Fred Ward) finding advantage in Gregoriev's information.

The acting is excellent all round, but the film would be a lesser animal without Kusturica. Showing as much bravura in front of the camera as he does as a director, the Serbian gives a warm, complex portrayal of a man who observes that "I live in lies, and solitude", yet who deserves so much more.

The marketers for Insidious may think they're covering all the bases by informing horror fans that the film "comes from the makers" of Saw (gore-heavy torture porn) and Paranormal Activity (chillingly effective haunted house). But there's no hint of the former (thankfully) and not enough of the latter; in reality, it's all over the place, with touches of Ghostbusters and, I swear, an echo of the Weeping Angels from Dr Who.

Soon after a family moves house, the eldest son falls into an unexplained coma. With the lad silent upstairs, mum is assailed by bumps in the night – an angry man's voice on the baby monitor, a mysteriously rocking chair, shadows in the corner of her son's room. A medium and her two geeky assistants call by to help.

It works for a bit, as parents Rose Byrne (who manages to seem spooked and spooky in the same moment) and Patrick Wilson (eerily vacant) add to the atmosphere of domestic weirdness and foreboding. But just when it's time to crank up the chills, a batty plot gets battier, and the tension subsides. The viewer is let off the hook, which in horror is the worst of crimes.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on