Family heroes and Marvel heroics
A son traces his father’s real-life spy adventures, while a new superhero saves the world
TOVARISCH, I AM NOT DEAD
BRITISH FILMMAKER Stuart Urban’s deeply affecting documentary, which seeks to uncover the truth about his father Garri’s past, often seems too incredible to be real.
Urban Senior, born in a Polish shtetl in 1916, qualified as a doctor. While attempting to swim an icy river from Soviet territory to Romania after the 1939 Nazi invasion, he was shot by Russian snipers and sent to a gulag in the Arctic Circle. He succeeded in escaping in 1940 and, amazingly, became head of the health service in Ukraine, enjoyed a romance with Moscow fashion-magazine editor Noka Kapranpova, was rearrested, imprisoned and tortured by the KGB before absconding yet again in 1946, posing as a German prisoner of war and escaping to the West.
In 1992, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, father and son travelled to search out and record significant aspects of his past. It was a quest that brilliantly illuminated Garri’s character, most notably in his reunion with his former lover Noka af- ter 50 years. The journey, which forms the basis of this superb documentary, brought father and son closer together (“I’m doing this for you, son,” says Garri during an emotionally bruising discussion) while still leaving key personal questions unanswered. After Garri’s death in 2004, Stuart returned to the project, interviewing Garri’s former lover, Noka. The final film, integrating home movies, footage of sorties into post-Communist Russia and new interviews, makes unmissable viewing.
PRODUCER AVI Arad, who successfully helped spawn superhero hits like Spider-Man, X Men and The Fantastic Four, succeeds again as yet another character from the seemingly endless library of Marvel Comics soars into the sky.
The screenplay keeps up with current affairs by having playboy arms billionaire Tony Stark (played with relish by Robert Downey Jr) devising the prototype of his invincible armoured suit while held captive by terrorists in Afghanistan.
Stark escapes and decides to seek redemption by assuming the identity of Iron Man, a dangerous flying avenger. His climactic battle with evil associate Obadiah (an unrecognisable bald and bearded Jeff Bridges) is one of the exciting action highlights staged with gusto by director Jon Favreau and his excellent special effects team.
Action, some witty dialogue and an entertaining sense of the ridiculous, is the name of the game here, and Iron Man delivers. Gwyneth Paltrow brings innate charm to her somewhat underwritten part as Stark’s right-hand-girl Pepper Potts, a role destined to be beefed up in the inevitable se-
Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man