"The White Crow," the Ralph Fiennes bio-pic of Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, is a film that will test its audience's patience.
"Crow" starts slow, starts to find its footing in the middle act, before building to a sensational final hour hour that is as tense and suspenseful as any film in 2019. That high note proves to be a just reward for an audience willing to overlook some of "Crow's" early shortcomings.
Oleg Ivenko plays Nureyev, with Fiennes setting the story in the days leading up to the dancer's defection during the height of the Cold War. Through flashbacks we see Nureyev's simple upbringing and his rise through the ranks in Russia's top dance troupe - learning the ropes from one of the country's best instructors (played by Fiennes), while re-inventing his profession and trying to find his own personal freedom.
At first "Crow" meanders through these key moments in his life that led up to his rise in the ballet world - a decision that doesn't always work. Fiennes manages to keep "Crow" from coming off the rails thanks to some beautiful cinematography and nice work from Ivenko.
Somewhere around the first hour "Crow" starts to focus more on his craft, with dance sequences that are again beautifully captured by Fiennes, and what led to his decision to defect during a tour of France. That's when the film really starts to find its stride, building to his defection - a third act that is as tense and engaging as any political thriller in recent memory.
The defection lifts "Crow" and the material to another level - making this more than just a standard bio-picture. It makes "Crow" a solidly crafted drama that evolves into a very good thriller.