the world when freedom was a matter of honor

scene from ‘The English Spy’: The Complex Geopolitical Failures of the Cold War | Photograph:

If you’re one of the leftovers from the 1980s and 1990s, you’ve probably heard of the Cold War and its tensions. I remember, for example, listening to my uncles debate – one conservative and the other socialist – who was more right: the United States or the USSR. From the Truman Doctrine in 1947 to the death and burial of the USSR – at least symbolically – in 1991, the second half of the 20th century has lived under constant and haunting tension.

The USSR and the Free West fought a rhetorical, political, economic and warlike battle for domination of the globe. The geopolitical barbs, threats and moments of near war were so glaring that thousands of popular underground shelters were built in many countries. Families stocked themselves with food for months, all with the certainty that a nuclear war between the West and the USSR was almost inevitable. There were times, explains French historian Stéphane Courtois, when the upheavals of war were so real that leaders were woken up by their intelligence services at dawn to prepare for the impending war.

It’s the stifling and politically chaotic environment that director Dominic Cooke managed to recreate with rare mastery in the low-scintillating domestic mainstream film The English Spy (available on Amazon Prime Video). The lead role was given to the talented Benedict Cumberbatch, playing Englishman Greville Wynne, a mechanical engineer and businessman responsible for implementing English industries across Europe. In the plot, Wynne was chosen by the intelligence services of MI6 and the CIA on a mission to be the contact of the Western spy infiltrated in the high command of the USSR, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky – played by Merab Ninidze.

The film depicts the exact moment when, after a long period of information vacuum, Western intelligence services began to receive privileged reports on Soviet military plans. The trump card was obvious, because since the secret information was sent from a high military command of the Communist Empire, it meant that the data, documents and photos, had a colossal chance of being really important information that would secure a Western advantage. on the Communists. But there was a problem with that: How do you smuggle such information into the West without the content – sooner or later – attracting the paranoid attention of Communist intelligence? This is exactly where entrepreneur Wynne comes in.

The film was based on real events, which makes Wynne and Penkovsky’s achievement even more impressive. The contents stolen from the USSR by the colonel – and later sent to the United Kingdom and the United States – were nothing less than the main Soviet military strategy in order to match its military might with that of the United States. , that is to say: place warheads on the ground. Cuban, ready to be fired on the United States in the event of a possible Western invasion or attack.

Western strategists generally understood that, if this happened, the USSR could easily establish political and strategic domination over much of the civilized world. Thus leaning strongly the geopolitical balance towards communism.

The film begins when Penkovsky discovers that Soviet missiles are being sent to Fidel Island. It was at this precise moment that Penkovsky activated his espionage mission, later becoming one of the West’s most important spies in the last century.

As previously stated, such a military equivalence between the USSR and the United States would put the Communist Empire on a military par with the West as a whole, force lesser countries to practically bow to the rule. Soviet will so as not to become targets themselves. potential.

Without any temporal and reactionary nostalgia, it is easy enough to assume that history would most likely have followed the path of contempt for individual, economic and political freedoms, culminating in authoritarian limbo, had the USSR successfully followed the sketched plan. . The failure of the USSR’s political project has a lot to do with the colossal and unsustainable military spending spent with the goal of equalization in war with the United States. It is evident in this way how the courage and achievements of Penkovsky and Wynne were instrumental in the victory of the political and democratic model of the West.

Now I will be careful not to spill unnecessary spoils, highlighting three basic and laudable points of the functionality reviewed here. Go on.

Wynne has been portrayed as an ordinary man, torn between the glamor of being an official spy for the West and the fear of ending his prosperous life in the prime of his life. The internal plot of the film manages to portray with extreme happiness this dubious character from the psyche of a successful man, with an established family, and at the financial peak of his company, being co-opted by the services of intelligence of the West with the mission of going to the USSR to meet Colonel and Western spy Oleg, under risky economic pretexts. All this for the central purpose of getting information and documents from there, of course.The second point to emphasize is the very well-crafted and faithful description of Soviet social realities, as well as of Communist strategies to investigate and punish the traitors. . However, I insist more carefully on the director’s sensitivity to recreate the social paranoia described in Penkovsky’s memorable dialogues during the film; The apparent sense of social normality that there was in Moscow – says the colonel – was nothing more than a normality fabricated by fear and ideological preaching, a political farce that hid the unhealthy atmosphere of political denunciation. who reigned in the most intimate circles of Soviet life. However, all of this has been portrayed with extreme subtlety and skill, without appearing to the most attentive ears to be superficial anti-Communist ideological propaganda. In one of the memorable parts of the film, it’s clear to observe how a simple dinner could be something rehearsed; spontaneous words were followed by sidelong glances and ideological reflections in order to verify that no state rule had been broken, that no political denunciation to the state would be necessary at the end of the meal. “Anyone can be a whistleblower”, specifies the Soviet colonel to the English engineer, “from the waiter to the garbage collector, from the taxi driver to the shoe shiner”. The gulags recreated in the feature film follow an obvious study of the script. . Anyone who has read the Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Lasca by Vladímir Zazúbrin has the feeling that the prisons presented there come directly from the aforementioned books. The whole work is very well put together, the story is continuous and never bored at any time. Neither propagandist of a cause; nor fear of exposing what communism was in its political essence. The storyline, which may appear to be simply “based” on actual events, follows an interesting parallel with the characters’ true histories – which makes it even almost biographical.

A movie to save to Amazon’s favorites list and watch at least twice. To watch, moreover, with his son or his teenage nephew tempted to be a communist militant without knowing what communism really was. The film is a portrayal of frightening years of the 20th century, of conflict and hostilities that seemed endless.

But in a way, it was also a good time, of pragmatic social pedagogy, a time when a “sense of honor” in the defense of individual freedoms was not a “fascist discourse”. Period when the heroes were real. They are found in more diverse homes, under more varied colors, tastes and fetishes. Days when freedom was ensured above all by a sense of the dignity of each individual. Such a conclusion may even seem like simple reactionary nostalgia for whoever is writing to you, but perhaps it is also this truth that the aimless days around us have made us forget.

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