It’s the lead actors who give the movie its surprisingly emotional texture. Connery is masterly as the boozing, disheveled, sentimental Barley — a hipster gone to seed — and he and Pfeiffer have a touching chemistry.
There isn't a single chase scene in The Russia House. There's scarcely a love scene. And it dares to be slow. But it's attached to feelings as few spy movies are - and as even le Carre's book was not. The greatest compliment one can pay The Russia House is to say that it's the kind of spy movie that's making spy movies obsolete. [21 Dec 1990, p.49p]
John le Carre's glasnost-era espionage novel has been turned into intelligent adult entertainment, but somber tone, utter lack of action and sex, and complexity of plot tilts this mainly to upscale audience.
Being allowed to film in Russia was a blessing and a curse -- Schepisi weighs down the film with endless pans and traveling shots of neoclassical and Russian baroque architecture. All those buildings, monuments and squares. [21 Dec 1990, p.G5]
It takes a lot of patience to watch The Russia House, but it takes even more patience to be a character in the movie. To judge by this film, the life of a Cold War spy consists of sitting for endless hours in soundproof rooms with people you do not particularly like, waiting for something to happen. Sort of like being a movie critic.
As directed by Fred Schepisi and written by Tom Stoppard, The Russia House is confused and dim, far less complex, and even far less fun, than almost any le Carre work yet brought to the screen, excluding The Little Drummer Girl.