Monday, July 23, 2012

The Boys from Brazil

Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffnerand
Starring: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier
& James Mason
Released: 1978
Runtime: 125 minutes
Rating: 4.5/5

Imagine a world with 94 identical clones of Adolf Hitler, each living their innocent adolescent lives in locations specifically chosen throughout the world completely unaware of what they are and of their purpose. The plan and ultimate goal is that at least one of these clones will become the man that Adolf Hitler once was and to ensure the dominance of the superior Aryan race over the world; a ‘Fourth Reich’

This is the plan of Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck); the infamous German SS officer and a physician known for his atrocious human experiments in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. Now living secretly in Paraguay, South America amongst a secret organisation of Third Reich war criminals who have agreed to fund and support his project, are now preparing to put the final stage of Mengele’s plan into effect by ordering the calculated assassinations of 94 elder men scattered along locations across the globe. The assassinations are to be spread over the course of several years so that each man is 65 years of age at the time of his murder.

A well intentioned young man Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) learns of these planned assassinations and manages to gets some of the information to highly respected and aging Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier). Convinced that something is amiss Lieberman begins to follow Kohler’s leads.

While most of the movie going world was out enjoying the final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s highly acclaimed Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises, I was in a department store at my local shopping centre on a Saturday morning browsing through dozens of titles in a $5 DVD bargain bin. Amongst them all I came across a copy of The Boys from Brazil on Blu-ray. I had wanted to see it for years so I did not hesitate in my purchase.

Now you could easily say that I’ve spoiled the movie for you in my opening paragraph, which in a way I have, but I can safely say that this film is pretty well know as being the movie about the ‘Hitler clones’, regardless of having seen it or not. I knew the big twist when I first heard of the film many years ago and it by no means ruins the film.

The Boys from Brazil was directed by Franklin J. Schaffnerand who is best know for Planet of the Apes (1968,) and adapted from Ira Levin’s novel of the same name. This is an amazing, thought provoking piece of cinematic story telling. I was just drawn right in from the opening shot of Paraguay. One of the many great things about this film is the chase, or pursuit for the truth and how the plot unfolds piece by piece. Watching our hero Lieberman piecing the puzzle together and his many interactions with the people he meets along the way is just captivating. It doesn’t matter if you already know the big secret, seeing it discovered is the real treat.

There is a very unsettling feeling and tone about this film, it’s frightening. I felt very disturbed after watching it much like how I felt when I first saw The Omen which does remind me a lot of this film; in regards to the whole rebirth of evil and the strong element of mystery.

As for performances you could not ask for anything better from such an overwhelmingly strong cast. Gregory Peck as Mengele is terrifying. He is pure evil and an absolute monster in every sense of the word. His screen presence is on a whole other level. Olivier is brilliant as Lieberman; the role that earned him is last Academy Award nomination for best actor. His Character is the polar opposite of Mengele’s. He represents all that is good, a determined individual in search of the truth who stands for justice as opposed to simple revenge. James Mason appears in a supporting role as Mengele’s superior who is excellent. He plays a Nazi yet still manages to come across as quite pleasant and charming. And just on a side note, Bruno Ganz who eventually went on to play Adolf Hitler in Downfall has a minor role as a medical scientist.

The music by Jerry Goldsmith is something I must mention, his wonderful musical score sounds a little odd at first given the tone of the film, but its works quite effectively. It’s a great example of how music can truly enhance a story.

The Boy’s from Brazil is a thriller of the highest order that I cannot possibly recommend enough if you’re a fan of the genre, as well as history or even the odd conspiracy theory. It’s a disturbing look at the remains of an evil and hateful regime struggling for one last attempt at power and oppression. The film’s lasting message is simple yet very strong and meaningful. We are individuals before anything else.

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