The Statement

How about another minor Michael Caine film that you probably have not heard of. The Statement was a 2003 joint Canadian/French/British production with a well known cast, a famed director, and very little else about it to recommend.

Michael Caine plays a French collaborator who was responsible for the rounding up and execution of some French Jews during WWII. Since then, he been on the run in the South of France. I wonder if one can actually be on the run for nearly 40 years? The answer is – apparently you can with key assistance from an unexpected source.

After the opening in which we watch 7 Jews executed by the Nazis after their homes were pointed out by Caine’s character called Pierre Brossard. We pick up the scene and it is the early 1990’s. A French Judge, played by Tilda Swinton joins up with a French Army Colonel – because the police couldn’t be trusted. Their goal – to track down Brossard and bring him to justice.

So who has been helping Brossard? Well he has been shuttling between towns in the south of France – those with churches, monasteries and a place to put him up. He also receives a monthly stipend. The French clerics of the region resolutely deny that they are either harboring this man who is wanted for crimes against humanity, or aiding and abetting his flight from justice.

Now as Caine plays him, Brossard is a double character – one is an old man, pious, and devout – who wishes only for a state of grace when he dies. He’s also a cunning and devious killer – quite talented with sussing out when he might be in danger. And who is after him – a shadowy group which we are lead to believe, at least initially, that this group could be the Jewish ancestors of those who were executed, or it might be another group of vengeance minded Jews. We aren’t entirely sure.There’s hints but nothing concrete. In fact, after Brossard escapes and kills his pursuer in what was supposed to be an ambush – we are pointedly told by a French detective that the deceased was definitely not Jewish.

But we can’t develop a rooting interest for Caine’s Brossard. Nor do we care much for the justice minded group out to get him. Swinton’s Judge seems a bit overwrought, and Jeremy Northam’s French Colonel seems no more than a male appendage for the Judge – on scene for gender balance and a calming influence.

As a matter of fact, there’s not a single significant character in the film that’s played by a French actor. Director Norman Jewison brought us to the south of France and didn’t deliver any tension or action to speak of. The shootouts – there were three – all were one on one’s with the outcomes pre-determined. The was a rooftop escape that was almost devoid of any excitement.

And that pretty much sums up the film that is distinctly lacking in character development, sharp writing, and any kind of visual excitement. What might have been a film that tackled an important subject about the Vichy collaborationists, and the participation of the French clerics in helping Brossard remain on the lam for so long was presented in a really disappointing style with little to no impact for the viewer.

As if we needed another reason to detest Brossard, the script called for Brossard to threaten to kill his estranged wife’s dog if she didn’t help him. Poor Charlotte Rampling (the estranged wife) – I wonder what convinced her agent to offer her this script. Caine is another matter altogether – as good as an actor as he is – he’s taken on more than a few roles that he should have turned down. Add this one to that list.

Sadly, The Statement has very little to say that you’d want to hear. Two point seven five is the rating and I’m not going to recommend the film.