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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 07/ 2/2010

Anna Chapman the movie?

By Jeff Stein

Has Anna Chapman finally met her cinematic metaphor?

Headline writers can't resist turning tales like hers into throwbacks of movies, no matter how shopworn and ridiculous.

This week it was "Spies Like Us" and "The Spy Next Door."

Need I say more?

But metaphorical help may be on the way. With uncanny timing, Hollywood is about to release “Salt,” with Angelina Jolie at her pouty-mouthed best as, yes, a suspected Russian agent.

Chapman, of course, who flaunted her sex appeal on Facebook, is cooling her heels in the Manhattan jail.

Comparisons between the two are already spreading like spilled borscht on the Web. But like most spy movies, “Salt” has only passing resemblance to the more humdrum reality of a saga lika Chapman's.

For openers, Jolie is a top CIA counterintelligence agent who comes under suspicion as a Russian mole.

Chapman, as far as we know, never even applied for a government job, never mind landing one at the CIA. Maybe she was too busy posting pictures of herself and partying around town.

She was content -- or assigned, the FBI might say -- to ply her trade as a party-hopping New York real estate agent while she worked up contacts who could be recruited by the heavyweights back in Moscow.

Her 10 erstwhile alleged colleagues worked, respectively, as a management consultant, financial planner, travel agent, Spanish-language newspaper columnist and stay-at-home mom, among other less-than-glamorous jobs.

Avoiding notice was part of their job. Chapman was the odd duck of the lot. The mission of the rest was to watch, make contacts and send home the names of potential recruits.

Indeed, they haven’t been charged with stealing any secrets, and, by the looks of it, never even tried.

They were “sleepers,” the feds say, long-term, deep-cover agents.

Not exactly action figures, not a Jolie among them, by the usual Hollywood formula. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a movie in the material.

A band of Russian spies in the U.S. conspires to ditch their mission in favor of living the good life in America. Moscow Center is not happy, and dispatches morale officer Alan Arkin to pump them up.

A pouty Anna Chapman snarks, “What are you going to do -- call the cops?”

Too cerebral? Hollywood’s spy flicks usually call for guns or car chases, a run through a Metro station and at least one instance of unspeakable cruelty.

“Salt,” in other words. You have to go all the way back to 1987’s “No Way Out,” where Kevin Costner does a pretty good job of acting like a regular guy, to find material approximating this week’s reality.

The principal grist for this week’s headlines, “Spies Like Us,” with Dan Akroyd and Chevy Chase, and “The Spy Next Door,” with Jackie Chan, are so far off base as to be ludicrous.

As it turns out, though, there is a movie opening here finally that cuts close to the bone of the current predicament.

It’s called "L’Affaire Farewell.” It’s a tense docudrama based on the true story of a disaffected KGB colonel in the 1980s, whose leaks led to the expulsion of 40 Russian spies from the United States, including some high up in the Reagan administration's CIA and Pentagon. The damage they did was so astounding, the film implies, that the facts had to be suppressed, lest Americans turn catatonic with shock.

Now that's a spy movie. But nobody gets killed with a silencer, run down by a truck or poisoned with a steak.

There's just no headlines from that.

By Jeff Stein  | July 2, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Entertainment, Financial/business, Intelligence, Justice/FBI, Media  
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Next: Nixon and Kissinger joked over Chile assassination


There ARE headlines, Jeff -- just not on NIPRNet (until the NYT gets the story. anyway...)

Posted by: Apostrophe | July 2, 2010 6:49 AM | Report abuse

Forget Angelina. I think Palin should play the part.

Posted by: hipshot | July 2, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

She could get me to say anything. WOW

Posted by: nabel126 | July 2, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

She's not even pretty, why all the fuss?

Posted by: polcat | July 2, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

People who don't see the allure of Anna Chapman are possibly missing a Y chromosome.

Posted by: screwjob16 | July 2, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

The real laugh is going to come when this little tart returns to Russia. They don't like failure.

Posted by: economy48 | July 2, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

When I first saw the picture of the Russian temptress, I thought she was another skank mistress of Edwards. She certainly is no Bond girl.

Posted by: nvlheum | July 2, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Forget jolie- this gals a lot hotter than her. Jolie is too old and over the hill.

Posted by: nabel126 | July 2, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

People who don't see the allure of Anna Chapman are possibly missing a Y chromosome.

Posted by: screwjob16

Just because I don't have a Y chromosome doesn't mean I can't tell when another woman is quite plain and ordinary-looking.

Posted by: forgetthis | July 2, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

You know, if these alleged "spies" are likely to experience severe persecution by the Russian government; they may be able to request political asylum in the U.S.

Certainly seems to me that they're thoroughly indoctrinated in capitalism. And they've done far, far less damage, if any, than the bankers and investment agents on Wall Street.

Posted by: mhoust | July 2, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

She can stay at my house if she need's too. Just saying

Posted by: nabel126 | July 2, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

This column went from high expectations to irrelevant blabber.

Posted by: whocares666 | July 2, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Who would've thunk it?

Round up a bunch of Russians as spies for a promotional stunt for a movie.

But the movie I really want to see is the the 9/11 3D effect movie where the WTC buildings re-materialize on screen and all the people walk out alive and they tell us who really did it.

Posted by: onesideplease | July 2, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Why this fascination with a person whose facial bone structure is perhaps pleasing and can deftly apply make-up? She could be accused of the most heinous crime yet here we are enthralled by this eye candy.

I don't recall this level of fascination with Ethel Rosenberg.

Posted by: Prospero1116 | July 2, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Please excuse the above double posting

Posted by: Prospero1116 | July 2, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

When he was eleven my younger brother used to watch WKRP in Cincinnati and literally lick the screen whenever Loni Anderson was on it. All this fascination with one particular spy suspect is just as immature, ridiculous, embarrassing and - let's just say it - unsanitary. Unlike Wapo, however, by brother eventually grew up. Quit licking the screen, morons.

Posted by: treetopflyer | July 2, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

treetopflyer---- I'll lick my screen if i want to. You sound like a jealous woman to me. My moto is if you're going to be a spy at least be a hot looking one. P.S. Go easy on your brother ,he couldn't help it.

Posted by: nabel126 | July 2, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

TREETOPFLYER: Just because your brother was a mental case and you're a jealous woman doesn't mean you have to take it out on the rest of us. I think i'm going to lick my screen now. My moto is if you're going to be a spy at least be a very hot looking one.

Posted by: nabel126 | July 2, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

nabel126--That's quite the motto you got there

Posted by: Prospero1116 | July 2, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Ethel Rosenberg was kind of hot in her own way.

Posted by: nabel126 | July 2, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Ah what a great country. 100 people can be blown to bits in some country, but hey, if it has sex in it, our daring members of the fourth estate are all over it. It's headline material, folks.

Posted by: rbe1 | July 2, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

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