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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The premise of this documentary is that some brave journalists acquire
super-secret tapes from corrupt KGB agents in post-soviet Russia, where
everything and everyone is for sale.
But it is important to observe throughout the movie, which conclusions can in fact be traced back to the tapes, and which can't. As an example, a whole section about the popes being alternately poisoned by KGB and CIA for political purposes is "outside material" -- backed up neither by the tapes nor by any other exclusive evidence.
Being Russian, I could easily understand what the voices on the hidden camera tapes said, and I was shocked to hear that most of the dialog, as it appeared in the subtitles on the screen, was simply made up to fit the purpose of the documentary. This is a very major accusation, because it exposes the researches as frauds. Here is an excerpt of a scene where a KGB-hired prostitute is seducing a man who the movie claims is an undercover KGB agent himself.
Woman: doing what? Man: Office work I was sent here to do. Much too boring for a pretty girl
What he really said: a splice from later on in the film: It's not that I'm tired. With you, nobody will get tired. When you come in, spirits are up immediately.
Woman: please explain What she really said: Are you serious?
Man: No. it's too dull ...
What he really said: (garbled) second shirt...
Woman: Are these your books?
What she really said: Are you studying?
Man: Oh, these are nothing important. Just some orders for supplies.
What he really said: Yes, studying, reading
Voice-over: again, the woman attempts to extract more information
Woman: well, they look very complicated
What she really said: I'm sorry I'm late
Man: it's just as I told you, some very boring stuff.
What he really said: Well, for a woman, you're not late (garbled)
Man: Now, I need to have some fun. What would you like?
What he really said: What would you like? Some wine perhaps?
Woman: some wine would be nice.
What she really said: With pleasure
Woman: This manual is dated for last month
What she really said: I don't know anything about mathematics
Man: you're very suspicious for a dressmaker
What he really said: I'm glad that ... (garbled)
Voice-over: the man is getting suspicious. What the woman and her KGB handlers don't realize is that this man is not just an army officer, he's also a KGB agent, investigating possible security leaks within the army. Being very familiar with KGB tactics, he sees all the signs that this is one of the agency's operations.
Woman: it's just a natural curiosity.
What she really said: nothing
Man: Drink, drink, my sweet strawberry girl
What he really said: work... (garbled)
Woman: thank you. Man: cheers
What she really said: Are you tired?
Man: you are intriguing
Woman: What do you mean?
Man: No more games. Tell me, is there a camera watching us right now?
What he really said: It's not that I'm tired. With you, nobody will get tired. When you come in, spirits are up immediately.
Woman: What do you mean?
Man: Who sent you and who... who are you working for? Where is the camera? Up there? Okay, I will find it.
What he really said: You know... I thought.... (seems nervous) one minute please, I need to leave for a second, okay?
What is very troubling for me is the use of the word "okay", which only became widely used after the westernization of Russia, i.e. after 1991. It is entirely possible that the "corrupt KGB agents" swindled the American journalists and sold to them some not-so-important tapes showing people having sex on tape. And in fact, even though the documentary makes a number of claims, none of them can be traced back to the tapes which seem to be -- to borrow the KGB term -- just a honey trap for the viewers.
The unique natures of espionage and counterespionage are approached in this documentary, narrated by Roger Moore, tracking ostensibly little-known activities of the former Soviet Union KGB. In spite of a rather garish title, a primary issue here is the generally successful policy of the infamous Soviet intelligence agency to determine critical character weaknesses of its enemies' agents, demonstrated through freshly obtained video tapes and other documents and by dint of simulated episodes utilizing actors. The role of sex as a weakness is touched upon, but not overplayed, with greed being shown to be at least as great a foible, as limned in the spying cases of Aldrich Ames and of the U.S. Navy's Walker family. It is correctly pointed out that each participant in the Cold War possessed full knowledge of its opponents' activities until the fall of the U.S.S.R., with the purpose of the game being to cripple an enemy's strategy through co-opting of agents. The film's makers propose that with a market-driven economy functioning within the New Russia, formerly secured documentation is now, in the light of day, for sale to highest bidders, with the piece's producers reportedly having access. The C.I.A. is depicted to have as baleful an effect upon international relations as its Soviet counterpart and, in the production's most provocative and most apocryphal section, an inquiry is formulated as to the comparative influence of the two intelligence giants upon the Vatican and its lordship over a billion acolytes. A good portion of this endeavour is about paranoia, with repeated reference made to the legendary suitcase size nuclear devices said to be secreted within the United States as well as other nations, available for the largest offering. Moore, who has played in his share of films based upon espionage themes, capably narrates, although he swallows his words upon occasion. The climactic portion is a scripted polemic against "terrorism", principally depicted in the personage of Osama Bin Laden, meantime bypassing the monolithic presence of the KGB (now FSB), as under Vladimir Putin Russian state socialism has stepped its emblematic single step backward in preparation for a subsequent advance.
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