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The StatementThe Statement
(with a four-star serving of Mr. Caine)
Starring: Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam and Alan Bates
Directed by: Norman Jewison
Rated: R

 

 

The Statement is an odd little film. The premise, based on a best seller by Brian Moore, is strong and eye opening but the execution is just strange.

Story goes…ripped from the pages of a dark piece of history we meet a young Nazi, in a French uniform, named Pierre Broussard.

Broussard is in the middle of condemning seven Jewish men to firing squad in a small French town. He's smiling and actually enjoying the men's collective horror...

He speaks with a strong cockney accent - so I was thrown for a loop…was he a Brit that joined the French to kill innocents? I sat and pondered as the film moved forward…

We leave the cold shameful past and the film returns to 1992. Broussard, now in his seventies (and now Sir Michael Caine) is sipping beer at a French bistro. A man is watching his every move and reporting to another. Apparently Broussard has an assassin on his tail. Before you can say, "Oy! Why's everyone in this film speaking in a Briti.." Broussard's old wolf-like instincts kick in as he huffs and puffs himself to safety - he gets the upper hand shall we say.

Meanwhile back in Paris…a "judge" of some-sort (Tilda Swinton) is searching for Broussard. He had been pardoned from war crime proceedings after the war but now they've sentenced him via "crimes against humanity" and he's due in a prison cell. Her motives for hunting down the war criminal are two-fold ; it's her job and an ode to her heritage.

She also speaks in fluent English - upper crusty and proper…is it a British wing of the French government I was still thinking?

She's given a helper (Jeremy Northam). He's a military man more into the getting the job done - then into silly emotional attachments. Oh, and, of course he's British…or is he?

We watch as Broussard is hunted by several sources in the twilight of his life. Added to the growing pot of his lukewarm cauldron of subplots? Who should show up as an unlikely aide to the running man? The Catholic Church. Seems, in actual real-life fact, a small "leftist" part of the church did indeed assist Nazis in rooting out Jews. Shudder. In this convoluted tale, Broussard was one of their "disciples." Now they stand by their man, secretly and unannounced, as they shelter him and lie to authorities on his behalf.

The Statement quickly becomes an annoying cat and rat chase through a gorgeous backdrop of Southern French countrysides. The whole British speaking cast confused me from the get go (and I'm not exactly a dunce). That hideous faux pas Enemy at the Gates pulled the same British voiced German characters routine…(Okay, The Pianist, which was remarkable, did too) both these confusing films would have done better to hire a dialect coach and French-up the scenes a bit.

All that negativity having been said...there is an upside to the film. Sir Michael Caine. He's probably the only man we could watch as a cold-hearted murdering bastard and still somehow feel bad for him. It's got everything to do with his talents. This Broussard chap is cold, calculating evil. He's devoid of any human morals and a coward. But, Caine somehow gives him such a spark of blind follower we can't help but feel a smidge bad for the guy…well, not bad, but "enough already" he's a moron that just doesn't get it and never will. Broussard deserves death - Caine's charm leaks through…

Tilda Swinton and Jeremy Northam have awkward roles. Aside from the fact I thought they were Interpol's London branch for half the film…they are, well, shockingly over dramatic - lacking only a recurring du-du-du-dummmm theme to accent their strained dialog. Sure, Northam still makes your manly-man loving forehead bead up in a sweat, as sugar-plum images of his character's oh-so-form-fitting military uniform have you imagining what it would look like thrown over a lion clawed chair as he wraps himself in a bearskin rug before a roaring Yorkshire fire…but the film just wastes the lad's immense…talents.

Bluntly Speaking? Director Norman Jewison is sometimes great sometimes not. I admit - I'm not in with him on this film. All this talent - dolloped with brand names in small roles (Charlotte Rampling, Ciaran Hinds etc) throughout…and still barely a fizzle of yum from the whole yarn. Shame because Caine shed his wink and really delivers one of his finest roles ever.

Snack recommendation: Beer

 

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