LONG BEFORE everybody else figured out the truth from Alexander Solzhenitsyn's samizdat books, from an empire-crushing economic collapse, from a stream of defecting citizens, and from vodka's role in the death of the martini, Hollywood recognized the central flaw of the Soviet Union: It was boring.
This is not to disparage the great Russian people nor to slight their empire. If anything, the combustible mix of bloody tribes and fierce hatreds that comprised first Czarist Russia and then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was not boring enough. It's a tribute of sorts that the Soviets managed for 74 years to make it all seem unspeakably dull.
That dullness, I think, is the best explanation for one of the most puzzling lacunae in movie history. Why was Hollywood unwilling or unable to make compelling narratives about the horrors of the Soviet system?
This question has been asked repeatedly since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. In the June …