Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
Date: April 27, 2004
Review posted: June 17, 2004
Gregory L. Amato
Flash back to France 1944, when seven Jews were rounded up by
French Nazi collaborators and executed. Flash forward to 1992, and
one such individual is still on the run. Pierre Brossard (Michael
Caine, The Quiet American,
Get Carter), responsible for the executions, has been
hidden by a very right-wing group within the Catholic Church ever
since his escape from justice at the end of World War II.
With a new law concerning crimes against humanity passed, Brossard
goes from forgotten embarrassment to marked man. While Judge Annemarie
Livi (Tilda Swinton,
Vanilla Sky) and Colonel Roux (Jeremy Northam, Gosford Park)
investigate his whereabouts in order to bring him to trial, another
group wants to pin a statement of war crimes to his dead body.
Brossard must outwit and outrun his pursuers or else face up to his
past crimes, the one thing he refuses to do. Based on the novel of the
novel of the same name by Brian Moore.
second scene, after we see the events of 1944 that set the story
in motion, is one of the best openings in any thriller, political
or not. Enough is revealed as Brossard is shadowed by an unknown
man to tell us some of the storyís basics, but enough is left
unknown to make it interesting. We know just enough to want to
Unfortunately the film slows down after that opening. A lot. The judge
and the colonel are determined not just to catch Brossard, but to find
out what high-level government officials allowed him to escape in
1945, and who might have helped him stay on the run for almost 50
years. All is methodically unraveled, bit by painstaking bit. We find
out why not everyone wants to see Brossard caught, and what is really
behind both his god-fearing character and the churchís motivation to
keep him hidden.
All this is done as well as could be with the top-notch set of actors
assembled for the project. Michael Caine is merely the lead in a story
that includes some of the finest British actors (and yes, they are
almost all British actors playing French characters) available.
Swinton and Northam play their parts smoothly and John Neville (Spider,
The Fifth Element) makes much more of his meager screen time
than might be expected.
The problem is that all the acting in the world canít make up for the
fact that this is more of a detective story than a thriller (and yet
not quite either), and the only character weíre given enough
information to empathize with is also the most despicable character in
the story. Livi and Roux are our heroes, but we get little background
on the judge and almost none on the colonel. Caine plays Brossard
convincingly, but itís hard to find him the least bit sympathetic even
as the underdog trying to escape numerous pursuers. And in terms of
the assassins stalking Brossard, you have to wonder what their
qualifications could possibly have been in order to be so ineffective.
the one hand, director Norman Jewison (The Hurricane; The Russians
are Coming, The Russians are Coming) is trying to show us a
desperate man on the run. On the other hand, this desperate old man
takes out his first adversary, searches for clues, and disposes of the
body with such skill that it seems like a practiced technique for him.
Yet there he is later, shocked and dismayed that he had to kill a man
in self-defense, even if he was well prepared for such an incident by
riding around the south of France with a gun and a pair of gloves to
avoid leaving fingerprints. Can we understand the reaction as
hypocrisy inherent the character? Probably, but that still doesnít
explain why he was carrying a gun with him even before he knew he was
gets from beginning to end with solid acting and a carefully scripted
story, but itís so workmanlike that it leaves room for little
excitement or intrigue. Some have criticized the film for being self
important or thinking more of its moral ambiguity than it should.
Perhaps so, but in the end the moral ambiguity and importance rest not
with the man himself, but with the institutions surrounding him.
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment presents The Statement
in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is pretty clean,
with no noticeable compression artifacts or halos.
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
presents The Statement in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound.
Dialog is pretty much all there is, and is fairly clear
Jewisonís excellent opening in The Statement
is paralleled by an extremely boring commentary by the director
at the beginning of the film. Later on things finally get a little bit
better, but Jewison still insists on telling us what is happening as
if we didnít know it. When the location or time changes, we know it
because little words at the bottom of the screen tell us it is now
1992 or now weíre somewhere else in
but just in case you missed them Jewison repeats the information.
Also lackluster are the two non-conversations,
one with Michael Caine and one with Norman Jewison.
Neither manages to say much of anything interesting, and in fact they
are simply monologues within the confines of a few general questions,
not conversations. Two deleted scenes are rather short, one
simply an extension of a scene included in the film.
If you want a good political thriller with Michael Caine, try one
of his Harry Palmer films (e.g., The Ipcress File) instead.
The Statement is carefully done and subtle, but itís done to the
point of dulling the experience. The "thrill" in this thriller just
isnít there, making the film merely okay.
VERDICT: RENT IT
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