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THE STATEMENT

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam, Alan Bates, William Hutt, John Neville, Charlotte Rampling
Director: Norman Jewison
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 119 Minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2004

"He's old, but he's a fox. He knows how to go to ground. If he gets your scent, he'll disappear…THAT MUSTN'T HAPPEN."

Film ***

The Statement is both a strong character piece and an interestingly constructed chase movie involving a man who's committed a series of clearly inhuman acts in his past. He's haunted by his atrocities, and seems as if he's at war with himself as to whether or not he should succumb to the notion that the web is closing in on him at a rapid pace. At the same time, he knows no other option but to keep running.

The man is Pierre Brossard (Michael Caine), a Frenchman who, during World War II, served as a prime executioner of several French Jews while employed by the Nazi party. He was soon arrested for his crimes against humanity, only to escape not too soon afterward. Since his escape, he's been on the lam from any possible authorities looking to capture him.

Perhaps the more surprising element of this story, inspired by the pursuit of a real life figure named Paul Touvier, is who was precisely behind the secrecy of Brossard's location. As it turns out, a right wing sect of the Catholic Church provided nothing short of a safe house for Brossard to reside in as he feared that numerous police units, as well as possible hit men, we're closing in on him.

And truth be told, both sorts of forces were indeed hot on Brossard's trail. The government has assigned magistrate Annemarie Levi (Tilda Swinton), and her military liaison, Colonel Roux (Jeremy Northam) to track down Broussard and bring him in alive to face his charges in the wake of new murders which he has clearly committed.

Brossard's most recent victim was no less than a hit man working under a covert team with Jewish ties. The leader of the organization, Pochon (Ciaran Hinds), wants blood for the crimes committed in years past. He's gone through several men to avenge them, and doesn't plan to go through any more.

The film is both skillfully directed by seasoned vet Norman Jewison (The Hurricane, In the Heat of the Night) and written by Ronald Harwood, the very same screenwriter who adapted The Pianist. This time around Harwood is adapting another WWII related story, from that of the novel by author Brian Moore.

As for Caine, this is quite an effective performance of a most complicated character. We're not supposed to like Brossard at all, but it's worth acknowledging the times he looks as if he's ready to answer for what he's done. It's an intriguing performance piece in addition to being a skillfully done chase thriller.

Video ***

The anamorphic transfer provided by Columbia Tri Star is most acceptable, if not all the way perfection. An opening and crucial scene, shot in black and white, results in the only distracting portion of the entire presentation. What follows, however, is a much glorious and well done transfer, complete with clarity, bright colors, and a good level of detail. In other words, you'll have to get past the flaws in the opening scene in order to enjoy the rest of the feature.

Audio ***

The film has its share of gunfire outbursts, which give the 5.1 mix a usual boost or two. In fact, the sound does prove strong in other areas, as in music score and dialogue delivery. Although the level of range isn't really too diverse amongst the channels, it remains an effective piece of sound, nonetheless.

Features ***1/2

Not a bad listing of extras, as we get a commentary track with director Norman Jewison, as well as two lengthy interview segments; one with Jewison, the second with Michael Caine. Also featured is a well detailed making of featurette, some deleted scenes, and a trailer gallery.

Summary:

The Statement is a revealing look that the lengths a man of extreme evil doings went to hide himself from being captured. The superb talents of Michael Caine and Norman Jewison combine to make a most memorable true life thriller.