Sakharov (1984)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature]  |   Release Date - Jun 20, 1984 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 117 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mike Cummings

This 1984 production tells the true story of Russian citizens protesting human rights violations in the Soviet Union. In one of his finest screen performances, Jason Robards Jr. portrays the widely known dissident, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989). While Sakharov was in forced exile in the city of Gorky, his supporters promoted this British film and persuaded HBO to air it in the summer of 1984 on U.S. television at the height of western pressure on the Kremlin to release Sakharov. As Sakharov, the father of the Russian H-bomb, Robards abandons his usual gruff, cigar-chomping demeanor in favor of the quietly stubborn manner that Sakharov used to rally the world to his cause. Glenda Jackson performs brilliantly as Sakharov's equally stubborn wife, Yelena Bonner Sakharova, who can be as soft as silk, and, when necessary, as hard as steel. The film builds suspense slowly, starting from street protests monitored by the Committee for State Security (KGB) and escalating to the world stage with flashing cameras and international news conferences. Composer Carl Davis (World at War) provides a quiet, unobtrusive music score, and the cinematographer's camera aptly captures the gray melancholy of life under totalitarianism. A minor annoyance in the film is the failure of the actors to adopt a Russian accent. Yank Robards and his typical British colleague sound like Stanley meeting Livingstone rather than Kravtsov meeting Malyarov. Still, the film is a good one -- a rare piece in which art not only imitates life, but becomes part of it.