Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam, Alan Bates, John Boswall
Director: Norman Jewison
The brilliant Michael Caine heads a star cast in this terrific political thriller set in contemporary France. Rooted in the events of the Second World War, a complex game of cat and mouse touching on far graver concerns is played out amidst a beautiful Mediterranean backdrop.
Pierre Brossard is a man on the run for his life. Now 70 years old, the Frenchman was responsible for the execution of seven Jews at Dombey during the Nazi occupation of France. He was pardoned. But after a life in hiding, sheltered by the Catholic Church, his luck seems to have run out. He finds himself not only hunted by determined Judge Anne Marie Livi and her gendarme sidekick Colonel Roux, but another, more threatening, unknown enemy. Can he outwit not one, but all of his foes, and keep on running?
Yes, I did say a Frenchman in the paragraph above. Which does not go a long way to explaining the casting of Michael Caine in the lead role as Brossard. Although director Norman Jewison (THE HURRICANE) has sensibly opted for English accents across the board rather than a confused mixture (can you imagine Michael Caine doing a French accent? “I said, blow zee blerdy doors orf!”). This should really have been a French film with a French cast. Somehow a bunch of Brits playing French characters in France doesn’t quite fit. Wonderful as Caine is, like a mature port that just gets better with age, he doesn’t even look like a Frenchman. Instead of picking up a nice Riviera tan he’s merely red – the sign of all good Englishmen in hot weather.
However, all notions of ‘Michel’ Caine suspended, that’s the only false note in this film. Caine is, quite simply, on top form, more than ever. His support, from Jeremy Northam’s Colonel Roux, Tilda Swinton’s Judge Livi, Alan Bates as Livi’s uncle Bertier, and Charlotte Rampling as his estranged wife, is extremely strong.
Based on an excellent premise (and the original novel by Brian Moore) and with tight, crackling dialogue, the film is at its best in the interplay between Northam and Swinton and Caine and Charlotte Rampling.
This may be too heavy for some but if you’re in the mood for truly intelligent cinema with great acting and a solid plot then this is your film.