Starring: Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Alan Arkin
Director: Norman Jewison
Running Time: 126 mins
The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! is an American film about a small Russian submarine that accidentally runs aground on a small New England island at the height of the Cold War, causing havoc and confusion among the few eccentric inhabitants.
This film is brilliantly funny. As ridiculous and silly as its story is, it’s a side-splitting comedy that gets funnier and crazier with each new twist and turn, and one that’ll easily have you laughing your socks off time and time again from start to finish. With some fantastic central performances as well, this film is filled to the brim with comedic energy and genius, consistently providing a pleasant and riotously funny watch that’s an absolute joy to behold.
When you hear the words ‘Cold War’ and ‘comedy’ put together, you may be inclined to think of a darker satire along the lines of something like Dr. Strangelove. However, this is almost the exact opposite, as it focuses pretty much entirely on providing a silly and laughter-filled comedy, rather than making any too serious points about the Cold War, but the fact that it meshes the political climate of the time so well with a ridiculous farce is incredible to see.
The film’s ridiculous premise is very reminiscent of The Eagle Has Landed. That’s a very fun alternate WWII movie, but the great thing about this film is that it plays with the alternate history in such a comedic way. The Russians that land on the island are pretty much all bumbling idiots, and the Americans that have to suddenly react to the possible beginning of WWIII are even more moronic.
However, that light-hearted and fun-loving atmosphere allows the film to take as many liberties as it likes with history, politics and even reason. The wide range of quirky and eccentric inhabitants of the equally bizarre Gloucester Island are the perfect source for some great laughs on any day, but plunging them onto the front line of the next World War increases the silliness and chaos tenfold.
That’s where the performances come in, all of which are brilliant throughout. Carl Reiner is hugely funny as a confused father that makes first contact with the Russians, whilst the likes of Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters, Paul Ford and Theodore Bikel (in a very small role) all add to the crazed zaniness of the events here. Their performances are all completely over-the-top and beyond comical, but they always make for some hilarious laughs whenever they’re on screen.
And then there’s the one performance that isn’t quite so idiotic. Alan Arkin plays the leader of the small cohort of Russians that take to the island in an attempt to find a way to save their submarine from discovery, and he’s stunning at every second. Apart from his flawless Russian dialogue that heavily outnumbers his English lines, Arkin is a much more calm and composed presence on screen, playing a more intelligent and cunning character than any of his co-stars, and as such standing out brilliantly as the only moderately normal, yet still blisteringly funny person in the entire film.
Overall, I absolutely loved this movie. It’s the perfect Cold War comedy, with a fantastic sense of humour that makes fun of both sides, and even has some moments of recognition for the political climate of the late 60s. Still, the main thing that makes this such a great watch is its insane and ridiculous humour, from the preposterous plot to every single moronic character, all played brilliantly by a fantastic cast. So, that’s why I’m giving The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! an 8.4.