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Archangel is a television adaptation of the 1998 novel of the same name by Robert Harris. Made by the BBC in 2005, it was filmed in the city of Arkhangelsk.

Directed byJon Jones
Produced byChristopher Hall
Written byRobert Harris
Ian La Frenais
Dick Clement
StarringDaniel Craig
Yekaterina Rednikova
Music byRobert Lane
CinematographyChris Seager
Release date
  • March 19, 2005 (2005-03-19)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryGreat Britain



An English expert on Soviet history, Dr. Christopher[1] 'Fluke' Kelso (Daniel Craig), is in Moscow for an academic conference on Joseph Stalin. After the conference, Papu Rapava, an old man, says that he has important information for Dr. Kelso.

In Hotel Ukraine, where Kelso is staying, Rapava recounts in detail how he, as a young security guard in 1953, witnessed the death of Stalin. He saw Lavrentiy Beria steal a key from Stalin as he lay dying in his Middle dacha. Beria and Rapava drove to Stalin's private quarters in the Kremlin and Beria opened a safe. In the safe was a red folder which Beria removed and later placed in a metal tool box at his mansion. He instructed Rapava to dig a hole in the yard in which this box was buried.

Believing this folder to contain Stalin's notebook, Kelso sees this as an opportunity to write a book based on the personal writings of the late Soviet leader. He tells Rapava that it would be worth a lot of money and would help Rapava reconcile with his estranged daughter. Rapava leaves while Kelso's attention is elsewhere. The next day, a reporter called RJ O'Brian (Gabriel Macht) turns up and recognises Kelso. Kelso begins his research in earnest, visiting a library to get information and eyewitness accounts of Stalin's death. He engages with a young librarian, Yelena, who provides him with the address where Beria used to live.

Kelso goes to Beria's former mansion, now in a state of disrepair. By accident, he discovers the key Beria took from Stalin. He finds the yard has already been excavated and the box is gone. He visits Vladimir Mamantov (Lev Prygunov), a powerful politician (and former KGB agent) who leads the Communist Aurora movement. Kelso invites Mamantov to talk about the notebook, but Mamantov denies knowledge of it. Kelso leaves, unconvinced by Mamantov's denial. Soon Kelso becomes aware that he is being followed.

Coming across a matchbook in his hotel room, Kelso goes to the advertised night club. Again he meets O'Brian. Kelso has asked to speak with Rapava's daughter, Zinaida (Yekaterina Rednikova), who works as a high-class prostitute to fund her law studies. He asks to speak with her father again and, after Kelso agrees to pay for her assistance, she takes him to her father's apartment block. Kelso finds Rapava murdered in the bathtub. As he is leaving, Kelso is mugged and beaten by hooligans. Despite Kelso's appeals for help from the police, he ends up being detained as a suspect. The FSB soon become involved as they are interested in what Kelso is doing. They arrange for him to be released without charge. The agent in charge, Suvorin, introduces himself, revealing that Kelso's actions led to the death of Rapava. Mamantov was aware of only one witness who knew about the notebook. Suvorin advises Kelso to leave Russia.

Zinaida tracks down Kelso. She found a note from her father telling her that Kelso has information for her. She tells him of their estrangement and asks why her father would contact her after so many years. When she says that she doesn't want to speak to her father, Kelso has to break the news to her that Rapava is dead. She takes Kelso to an old garage owned by her father in a search for more clues. Kelso finds a Makarov pistol and the tool box but before they can look inside, O'Brian turns up again. O'Brian wants a share of what they have found. In the tool box is the journal of a young woman called Anoushka from Archangel, who was selected to work for high-ranking Communist Party officials in Moscow.

Zinaida translates Anoushka's writings and learns that the woman took care of Stalin. She writes of a different, humbler aspect to Stalin, different than the brutal dictatorial nature he demonstrated to others. One night she observes his cruelty when she sees that he forces officials to dance for him. After this, she voluntarily dances for Stalin. Pages have been torn from the journal. O'Brian presses Kelso on the book's authenticity. Kelso is convinced it is genuine. Other papers found in the red folder contain reports from the NKVD and medical records. From other information known from that time, they conclude that Anoushka may have been the mother to an heir of Stalin. O'Brian deduces that the story continues in Archangel and makes plans for them to travel. When O'Brian leaves the room, Kelso and Zinaida plot to leave him behind and travel to Archangel together.

Zinaida plans a brief stop at her apartment to get her savings. An intruder waits inside but they make their escape and continue travelling north. Angered by their betrayal, O'Brian discusses his own travel plans with his colleague, Louise.

Suvorin confronts Mamantov about Rapava's murder at a book signing, but Mamantov has a watertight alibi. Suvorin's boss is outraged at O'Brian's breaking news report about Stalin's secret notebook. He orders Suvorin to talk with O'Brian.

Reaching Archangel, Kelso asks at the local records office about past party members. A male clerk, Tsarev, tells them that Anoushka's mother is still alive and living locally.

Kelso and Zinaida leave the records office, returning to their hotel. As they are getting closer, Kelso notices two policemen checking O'Brian's car and the pair are chased. Just before the police catch them, a car arrives and an assassin fatally shoots both policemen. Returning to the hotel unmolested, Kelso and Zinaida discover O'Brian waiting. Meanwhile, Suvorin is questioning Louise about O'Brian and she gives him the information he wants.

At the home of Anoushka's mother, it is revealed that Anoushka returned home pregnant, and died two days after she gave birth. Her baby boy was adopted by a local couple who lived in the forest.

In Moscow, Suvorin is again summoned to speak with his boss. Plans to have the military transport Suvorin to Archangel are under way. His boss cites the reasons for the importance of the notebook.

Kelso questions O'Brian about his sources and how he always seems to find them. Kelso appears suspicious of O'Brian's answer. When Zinaida comes out of the house to smoke a cigarette, she and Kelso discuss what they know. Zinaida agrees to remain with the mother so that Kelso and O'Brian can travel in order to find the child, now a man. Kelso also wants to keep an eye on O'Brian. The mother has revealed that her husband once tried to find his grandson. He left the house but never returned. Kelso and Zinaida believe that Anoushka met the same fate.

While the men are away, the local police arrive at the house and arrest Zinaida for murdering the two policemen. Before they arrest her, she manages to hide her father's Makarov pistol and some money.

Kelso and O'Brian begin their journey but fall foul of a road trap which stops the car. As they review their predicament, a man watches them from a nearby hill. Kelso is convinced the man is Josef, Stalin's son by Anoushka. They agree to go with him to prove they are not a threat to him.

Suvorin arrives by helicopter and gets an update from Lev, the local Militsiya captain. Suvorin examines the dead policemen and concludes that it was an execution carried out by a hitman and not a "call girl" or a "history professor"[2] He asks to speak with Zinaida. Suvorin assures her that she will not be hurt by the Militsiya as he has established that she did not kill the two policemen.

At a remote cabin, Kelso and O'Brian are presented with a large suitcase. On opening it, they discover relics from the past that belonged to Stalin as well as identity papers of others who came before them. These people wrote confessions and died. An old man who chops logs for Josef states that Josef's time is nearing.

Kelso asks Josef about his adoptive parents. The father, when drunk, would beat Josef. He died falling into one of his own traps while drunk and the mother was too old to work. Josef suggests that he killed the woman as a kindness. Kelso offers Josef a photograph of his birth mother but Josef says that he has picture of his real father and they are enough. Josef plies the men with vodka. In a menacing tone, Josef encourages Kelso and O'Brian to dance for him, just as his father did.

The next morning, Kelso awakes to discover Josef has gone. He and O'Brian make their way to the car to get a message out. Elsewhere, Suvorin is met by Major Kretov, with a squad of Russian Special Forces. Their mission is not immediately evident but Suvorin joins them. Finally O'Brian manages to get a signal with his satellite communications device and he begins a broadcast from the forest. Kelso tries to stop him and they struggle. The special forces arrive at the cabin and kill the old man. Kretov is aware of the satellite transmission by O'Brian and he informs Suvorin. Josef kills a guard left by the special forces transport. Soldiers capture Kelso and O'Brian and bring them to Kretov. Suvorin makes a move to protect the two men by threatening to kill Kretov. Kretov reveals that even if he is killed, his men will kill Kelso and O'Brian.

Suddenly, the group comes under attack from Josef. Suvorin orders Kelso and O'Brian to run for their lives. Suvorin accompanies them but Kretov shoots him in the back as they make their escape. O'Brian is caught in a bear trap and Kelso helps him remove it. Kretov kills the limping O'Brian. Kelso falls into a nearby river and takes refuge under the dock. Kretov runs onto the dock and raises his weapon just as Josef shoots him. Kelso escapes in a small motorboat.

Back at the cabin, Josef shaves and dresses, producing a striking resemblance to his father.

Kelso reaches a harbour and gets a lift in a truck to the mother's house. He learns that Zinaida is with the Militsiya. The old woman gives him Rapava's Makarov pistol. Kelso finds Zinaida at the police station. He pays Lev a huge bribe for her release. Kelso tells her that they must travel to the Kremlin because Mamantov wants Kelso alive. En route to the train, they watch O'Brian's broadcast on a television set in front of a small crowd.

On the train, Kelso tells Zinaida that Mamantov wants a credible person to reveal Anoushka's notebook and the existence of Josef. He tells her that Papu Rapava died because he wanted Zinaida to have the wealth from the notebook to stop her prostitution. Kelso tells her they will go to the American embassy in Moscow and he invites her to go with him to New York. She confesses that her father never held or loved his children. He taught her and her brother to be tough, never show fear and only trust themselves.

As they settle down in a compartment for the rest of their journey, the assassin shows up and demands the notebook. He takes Kelso to see Mamantov. Mamantov explains how he planned for Kelso to come to Moscow to speak at the conference, discover the notebook and reveal Josef to Russia. Kelso believes Josef to be unstable and that Mamantov might be his first victim. A hand resting on Mamantov's shoulder is Josef's and Mamantov believes Josef supports him.

Back in the compartment, Kelso tells Zinaida about his meeting with Mamantov and that they must get off at Vologda, the next station. As they are pulling in to the station, a huge crowd is there to greet the arrival of Josef. Kelso tells her to go to Moscow and get on a plane to anywhere. He is going to authenticate the notebook for Mamantov. He meets Louise and tells her that O'Brian is dead.

Kelso wants her cameraman to broadcast his speech and he begins to expose the corruption of the people who want Josef to rule over Russia with the same brutality as his father. Mamantov's henchmen interrupt him, kicking and beating him to the ground.

From above the crowd, Zinaida draws her father's Makarov and kills Josef.


DVD credits order

  • Daniel Craig as Professor Christopher Kelso
  • Yekaterina Rednikova as Zinaida Rapava
  • Gabriel Macht as R.J. O'Brien
  • Konstantin Lavronenko as Josef
  • Lev Prygunov as Vladimir Mamantov
  • Alexey Diakov as Suvorin
  • Ludmila Golubeva as Vavara
  • Igor Filipov as Major Kretov
  • Claudia Harrison as Louise
  • Valery Chernyak as Old Papu
  • Igor Chernawsky as Yakov
  • Leonids Lencs as Militia Captain
  • Aris Rozentals as Gregor
  • Jelena Soldatova as Masha
  • Kristina Brize as Young Zinaida
  • Anatoly Putnya as Zinaida's brother
  • Jonas Tamulevicius as Commando #1
  • Stanislav Samuchov as Commando #2
  • Leonidas Kotikas as Commando #3
  • Andrei Riabokon as Commando #4


Brian Gallagher wrote on MovieWeb: "the thriller has something for everyone: The game of Craig, a mysterious story, lively dialogues, some action and romance."[3]


  1. ^ He reveals his name at the press conference for Josef.
  2. ^ Translated by on screen captions.
  3. ^ Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit