White Nights (1985)    2 Stars

“Two men. Not soldiers. Not heroes. Just dancers. Willing to risk their lives for freedom-and each other.”

White Nights (1985)
White Nights (1985)

Director: Taylor Hackford

Cast: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gregory Hines, Jerzy Skolimowski

Synopsis: A Russian dancer who defected from his homeland is aboard a plane forced to crash land in the Soviet Union.






The basic plot of White Nights – the predicament of a Russian defector suddenly finding himself back in his Motherland after the airplane in which he is travelling crash-lands – is a compelling one, and had a little more thought and care gone into the characters of the three main protagonists, this movie would have been a whole lot better than it actually is.

The performances by the international cast are excellent throughout, especially Mikhail Baryshnikov, whose character is the main focus of the story and the catalyst for self-analysis among both those he left behind and those he encounters on his forced return. Jerzy Skolimowski, the Polish director, is also worthy of mention in a rare acting role as a KGB Agent.

So: good plot, good acting. And great dancing – even if you’re not a fan, you’re likely to enjoy Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines doing their thing. On the downside, the reasons for Hines’ defection from the USA to the Soviet Union (disclosed while holding an American football – the film’s symbolism lacks subtlety at times), are shaky and under-developed to say the least, and his character comes across as too apathetic too have made such a dramatic gesture in the first place. Isabella Rossellini (Cusins) is woefully underused and is prevented from adding much of worth to the movie.

White Nights is well worth seeing, then; but the sense of how great it could have been may undermine your enjoyment a little.

(Reviewed 22nd January 2002)

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