Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam, Alan Bates, Charlotte Rampling, John Neville, Ciaran Hinds, Frank Finlay, William Hutt, Matt Craven, Noam Jenkins, Peter Wight, Malcolm Sinclair, Colin Salmon, David De Keyser
Written by: Ronald Harwood, based on a novel by Brian Moore
Directed by: Norman Jewison
MPAA Rating: R for violence
Language: with English subtitles
Running Time: 120
Date: 12/12/2003

The Statement (2003)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Hiding in Plain Sight

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Norman Jewison has bungled through a long career, bouncing back and forth between pedigreed, Oscar-worthy material (In the Heat of the Night, A Soldier's Story) and head-scratching failures (Best Friends, Bogus) that make one wonder what the financiers could have been thinking. In all this he has never shown a distinctive touch or style. And now, after four decades of filmmaking, instead of refining his art, he has grown ever clumsier.

His new film, The Statement, comes from another potential Oscar pedigree, a screenplay by The Pianist scribe Ronald Harwood. It follows the tale of Pierre Brossard (Michael Caine), once a young officer in the Vichy Milice who gave the order to execute seven Jews during WWII. Never brought to trial, Brossard has lived his life on the lam, aided by right-wing and religious elements.

A new underground anti-Nazi movement seeks to kill Brossard and other war criminals without the aid of the authorities. Aware of the plot, a judge (Tilda Swinton) and a colonel (Jeremy Northam) try to find him before another crime is committed.

Unfortunately, Jewison has no timing for this material and doesn't manage to build any kind of suspense. Moreover, he allows Caine to get away with a hysterical, over-the-top performance that continually draws us out of the film; Caine tries to play "French" without the aid of a French accent or manner.

Numerous small details also distract, from a badly edited lunch meeting between Swinton and Northam to some of their obvious "detective" work, which must have come straight from old Charlie Chan mysteries.

Jewison drags the film on and on, wearing out his welcome, before coming to the only logical conclusion. The Statement is a failure, coming from someone who has been around long enough to know better.

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