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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

The Statement (review)

Quite possibly the most preposterous film of the year. It doesn’t start out that way, of course. No, it seems at first that director Norman Jewison (The Hurricane) is adding to his string of strong thrillers with a political conscience, but it rapidly descends into inescapable absurdity. As a young man, Frenchman Pierre Brossard (Michael Caine: Secondhand Lions) collaborated with the Nazis, and now, in the early 1990s, after decades on the run, justice is finally about to catch up with him in the form of a magistrate (Tilda Swinton: Adaptation) and an army colonel (Jeremy Northam: Possession) hot on his trail. As Brossard’s clandestine travels take him from church to monastery to abbey, it becomes clear that the film is positing a massive and, and massively anti-Semitic, conspiracy within the Catholic Church that’s been hiding — and has forgiven — a murderer of Jews since the end of the war. But it’s so widespread that even I — an atheist and vocal critic of the Church and the first to ascribe nefarious purposes to it — couldn’t believe it. Numerous civilians hide and protect Brossard as well, for reasons unknown. And of course there are governmental forces at work, too, directed by an elderly, unnamed power (John Neville: Sunshine) about whom we learn nothing, though his “secret” is obvious from the start. The very fine cast — which also includes Charlotte Rampling (Spy Game), Alan Bates (Evelyn), and Ciarán Hinds (Veronica Guerin) — is game, but the film around them is a house of cards in which every card is teetering.

MPAA: rated R for violence

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