Directed by John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy)
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Lawrence Olivier, Roy Scheider, and William “Secretary of State from 24” Devane
Synopsis: “A graduate history student, Dustin Hoffman, is unwittingly caught in the middle of an international conspiracy involving his CIA agent brother (Scheider), and an exiled Nazi war criminal(Olivier).”
This movie is great. It’s a smart thriller with some really tense sequences, and complex interesting characters. The plot is quick moving and has plenty of surprises as the narrative twists and turns, but what really makes this movie compelling are the deeper running themes of guilt, blame, memory, and how these all play into dealing with trauma. While the Dr. Mengele-based character played by Olivier is the most over of these examples, the screenplay broadens that theme to relate more directly to American culture. For example, Hoffman’s grad student, Babe, is writing a paper on “Tyranny in American Politics” citing everything from the McCarthy Hearings (of which his father was a victim) to the establishment of Japanese internment camps during WWII. The fact that these broader themes are directly connected to the characters and American culture at large, really enriches what may otherwise have been just another cheap thriller. As a reference of a more recent movie to do this successfully, see Spike Lee’s Inside Man.
I don’t think I need to even mention it, but the cast is amazing. I mean just look at it. I guess if i have to elaborate, Olivier is effectively creepy, and Dustin Hoffman does an awesome job gradually bringing Babe from every-man to action-man in a believable way.
Standout sequences: Olivier’s Ex-Nazi walking through the very “Jewish” Diamond District in Manhattan and one excruciatingly tense scene that probably developed a generation of anti-dentites.
Awesome 70s movie. Watch it at some point.