Norman Jewison put together a phenomenal cast for this Brian Moore tale of an aging Vichy collaborator on the run in France from some mysterious Nazi-avenging group. Michael Caine is the man on the run, and his various pursuers & conspirators include Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam, Alan Bates, Charlotte Rampling, John Neville, Frank Finlay, Edward Petherbridge & Ciarán Hinds. They’re all working from a well-structured, if rather blunt, script from Ronald Harwood, written just before his work on THE PIANIST/’02. Yet, the resultant film is utterly unconvincing, and utterly unconvincing on almost every level. What happened here? It’s true that the plot, some nefarious Nazi-Catholic Church-anti-Communist canoodling fandango by men still clinging to power never makes much sense, but it’s more than that. For some reason, the standard dramatic convention of accepting English-speaking Frenchmen (or Frenchwomen or people of whatever country we happen to be in) doesn’t fly. The cast comes off as almost defiantly British. (Except for that old Canadian trouper, William Hutt, who shows a bit of sass doing a kind of John Huston homage.) Every time they correctly pronounce something in French, we want to congratulate them.. Well done, mate! Odd. Nevertheless, it completely kills the film which has proved (so far) to be Jewison’s last. Pity.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: It sounds peculiar . . . heck, it is peculiar, but Alan Bates looks weirdly like a late middle-aged Jerry Lewis in a lot of shots. Distressing!