I am not going to write a long review of this film by Costa-Gavras because Marcus Ranum has done an excellent job of both the film and the actual events on which the film was closely based. It was reading that review that reminded me that this highly praised film of political intrigue was one that I had missed during its cinematic release in 1969 and then forgotten even after the era of videotapes and DVDs and streaming enabled one to revisit the classics.
So I watched it over the weekend. I was a little apprehensive because when one sees films long after their original release date, especially films that relate to topical matters, one can be disappointed because the film seems dated in its look and the material irrelevant. So I was pleasantly surprised, stunned even, to find it (apart from the clothes and cars) to be thoroughly modern and utterly gripping from beginning to end. It portrays so realistically how governments use the police, security services, and organizations of thugs to disrupt peace and social justice advocates. This is a phenomenon that transcends time and nations and is something that the US has long experienced. As the film’s famous ‘anti-disclaimer’ states at the beginning, “Any resemblance with real events, or people dead or living is not accidental. It is deliberate.”
I had also forgotten that the film featured such major actors as Jean-Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand, and Irene Pappas. Though the latter two had relatively small roles, the other supporting actors were also excellent. Trintignant was superb as the dogged magistrate who, initially presented with what seems like a simple case of a drunk driving accident, unravels the threads that reveal murder and government cover-up, despite the rapidly increasing pressure placed on him to treat it as a low-level offense involving a couple of thugs and ignore the complicity of the police and government at the highest levels.
This is one of the films that I classify as a must-see. I am just sorry that it took me so long. Here’s the trailer.