Hard on the heels of Z/’69 and THE CONFESSION/’70, the third political thriller with Costa-Gavras directing Yves Montand never found the high profile of the previous two. Perhaps its fictionalized, fact-based story is too balanced, finding compromised principles on all sides. Montand plays an American agent-in-plain-sight, a 'not-quite CIA' specialist in organizing police & military tactics to take down left-wing radicals for ‘friendly’ right-wing dictatorships. Kidnapped by one of these groups, Montand clams up on particulars and defends his work in long discussions with his abductors. On the outside, Costa-Gavras shows the government controlling news coverage and detectives closing in on rebels. It’s well put together, yet somehow lacks urgency & immediacy. A new writer, a new lenser, and a decision to show the outcome at the start all may have played a part, too. Then again, Costa-Gavras never quite recaptured his initial spark in any of his later works. (And, no, we're not forgetting MISSING/'82.) Avoid disappointment, watch the three in reverse order.
DOUBLE-BILL: As noted, Z and THE CONFESSION. Costa-Gavras was stuck with the Big Issue label for so much of his career, an intriguing black comedy like THE AX/’05 never even showed up Stateside. Good luck finding it! And if you do, tell us about it.