Donald Sutherland

The Day of the Locust (1975, John Schlesinger)

The Day of the Locust is a gentle film, at least in terms of Schlesinger’s direction, Conrad L. Hall’s cinematography and John Barry’s score. The film’s softly lit but with a whole lot of focus. Schlesinger wants to make sure the audience gets to see every part of the actors’ performances. He also wants the actors to exist in this dreamland. It’s Hollywood in the thirties, it’s supposed to be a dreamland. Except everything is a threat, possible danger is everywhere. Only Schlesinger doesn’t break that gentle direction until the third act, so he has to figure out how to suggest that danger as gently as possible.

Luckily, he’s got great actors, he’s got Hall, he’s got Barry, he’s got editor Jim Clark who does an unbelievable job cutting the film. Day of the Locust is a film about terrorized people who don’t realize they’re terrorized until its way too late.

The film opens with William Atherton moving into a not great apartment complex and getting a job in the art department at Paramount. He’s got a rather attractive neighbor, Karen Black, who works as an extra. Black lives with her father, played by Burgess Meredith. The first twenty or so minutes of the film beautifully establishes the grandeur of thirties Hollywood through Atherton’s perspective. Once Meredith shows up, however, the film becomes more and more Black’s.

Eventually, as Atherton’s attempts to woo Black go unsuccessful, Donald Sutherland shows up. He’s not in L.A. for the showbiz. He’s an accountant and a delicate person, something Sutherland essays beautifully. The thing about the acting in Locust is all of its great, it’s just great in completely different ways. Atherton’s story arc, for example, eventually becomes entirely subtext. A long take on him here, a cut to his reaction somewhere else. His character development becomes background, even though he’s somehow always the protagonist.

Sutherland falls for Black too. Just like Bo Hopkins does. Just like Richard Dysart does. Black doesn’t convey malice or even indifference to her suitors, she just doesn’t return their affections. Waldo Salt’s script is extremely complicated in how it deals with Black’s character. She’s never kind, but occasionally gentle. She’s rarely mean when sober, but when drunk she’s vicious. Her character, just like most of them in Locust, is inevitably tragic.

The Day of the Locust‘s characters’ tragedies stem from their unawareness. They’re victims, whether they know it or not. And they only way to succeed is to victimize someone else, which can even be a mutually beneficial arrangement. It’s a rather depressing film. Of course, Atherton’s protagonist is never looking for happiness so much as he is for beauty.

Black’s performance makes the film. Sutherland’s great, Meredith’s great, Atherton’s excellent in a slimmer role than the others, but it’s Black who makes The Day of the Locust so devastating. At least until the final devastation, where Schlesinger and Salt shatter the already shattered dream. For all Schlesinger’s excellent fine, gentle filmmaking, when he unleashes at the end of Locust, it’s even better. And editor Clark ably handles it all.

The Day of the Locust is exceptional.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Schlesinger; screenplay by Waldo Salt, based on a novel by Nathanael West; director of photography, Conrad L. Hall; edited by Jim Clark; music by John Barry; production designer, Richard Macdonald; produced by Jerome Hellman; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring William Atherton (Tod Hackett), Karen Black (Faye Greener), Burgess Meredith (Harry Greener), Donald Sutherland (Homer Simpson), Richard Dysart (Claude Estee), Bo Hopkins (Earle Shoop), Geraldine Page (Big Sister), Paul Stewart (Helverston), John Hillerman (Ned Grote), Pepe Serna (Miguel) and Billy Barty (Abe Kusich).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992, Fran Rubel Kuzui)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is so technically inept, not even Carter Burwell turns in a good score. Most scenes are just trying to decide who’s doing a worse job, director Kuzui, cinematographer James Hayman or editors Jill Savitt and Camilla Toniolo. Overall, it’s obviously Kuzui, but the editing in the first half by far worse than the photography. But the photography in the second half is so awful, it’s difficult to hold anything against the editing.

And then there’s Joss Whedon’s script. Regardless of whether or not someone rewrote it, it’s still awful.

But there’s a very likable quality to Buffy–Kristy Swanson. She does really well in the film. She has actual chemistry with Donald Sutherland and Luke Perry, even though Kuzui directs the actors terribly. Swanson weathers Kuzui’s direction best, Sutherland worst, Perry somewhere in between. Kuzui doesn’t have a sense of humor, which doesn’t help things. But Swanson gives a rather good performance. The film fails her over and over.

Perry manages to be likable whenever he’s around Swanson, until the film gets uncomfortable with her in the driver’s seat of their romance.

The vampires are lame. Paul Reubens is awful (Kuzui’s lack of humor fails him the most), Rutger Hauer isn’t much better. He and Swanson are awful together.

The movie runs eighty minutes and change. The first half, as Swanson trains to become the Vampire Slayer, moves pretty well. Kuzui and Hayman don’t do well, but they do okay. It’s trying to be a high school movie with vampire hunting. Swanson gets a great character arc and the script’s better one liners. Kuzui doesn’t seem to understand how the one liners work, but Swanson does. In contrast, Perry flops whenever he gets one of the one liners.

It ought to be a whole lot more entertaining, but the brisk pace of the first half and Swanson do get it to the finish. And, for what’s got to be the first time ever, I’ve got to single out the hair stylist–Barbara Olvera–she does a fantastic job with Swanson’s various styles.

I wish Buffy were better. It’s not, but I really wish it were. Swanson deserved it, Perry even deserved it. But really Swanson. She effortlessly goes from being likable to good. Shame the movie doesn’t even manage the former.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui; written by Joss Whedon; director of photography, James Hayman; edited by Jill Savitt and Camilla Toniolo; music by Carter Burwell; production designer, Lawrence Miller; produced by Kaz Kuzui and Howard Rosenman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Kristy Swanson (Buffy), Donald Sutherland (Merrick), Paul Reubens (Amilyn), Rutger Hauer (Lothos), Luke Perry (Pike), Michele Abrams (Jennifer), Hilary Swank (Kimberly), Paris Vaughan (Nicki), David Arquette (Benny), Randall Batinkoff (Jeffrey), Andrew Lowery (Andy), Sasha Jenson (Grueller), Stephen Root (Gary Murray), Natasha Gregson Wagner (Cassandra) and Candy Clark (Buffy’s Mom).


Heaven Help Us (1985, Michael Dinner)

In its hundred minute run time, Heaven Help Us does a number of things well. It’s beautifully edited, photographed, directed, acted. Charles Purpura’s screenplay offers a number of fantastic scenes, which director Dinner does a great job with. Overall, however, the screenplay is where there’s a significant problem. The film doesn’t have an ending and its lack of an ending just draws attention to the (easily overlooked) previous plotting deficiencies.

The film is so beautifully constructed in the first act, it gets by on that narrative goodwill and the performances all the way until the finale. Andrew McCarthy is the ostensible lead, the new kid at a Catholic high school in 1965 Brooklyn. His parents have died, he’s living with his sympathetic but awkward grandparents and his understandably upset little sister (Jennifer Dundas). He meets all the kids at school, then he meets a girl (Mary Stuart Masterson). They have a wonderfully dreary teen romance. Masterson is phenomenal, McCarthy is good.

Except it’s like Dinner realized McCarthy was too passive, so he gives Kevin Dillon a lot to do as the lovable bully. Dillon has all the Catholic school shenanigans (bullying, talking back to the priests, confession consulting, trying to corrupt a girl). Dinner and photographer Miroslav Ondríce give the school location enough personality the occasional diversions are all right. But, narratively speaking, Heaven Help Us points at Chekov’s gun only to reveal Greedo shoots first–it’s unclear if the film is hurrying to wrap up or if they just didn’t know what else to do with it.

Because part of the film’s charm is its scope. Dinner and Ondríce do a lot with a limited number of locations, a limited number of angles. They recreate 1965 Brooklyn through intelligent framing, with Stephen A. Rotter’s editing implying a lot of the rest. Rotter’s editing is excellent throughout the film, from the very first sequence.

The film isn’t happy. It’s often funny–there are the hijinks after all and McCarthy and John Heard (as the new priest at the school, which seems like a great narrative device but just gets lost) are great at deadpan–but it’s sad. There’s a weight to it all. Heaven Help Us isn’t just about McCarthy and Dillon finding themselves (they don’t even have to do it themselves–the abrupt deus ex machina takes care of their problems), it really is about Catholic high school. It’s about Heard’s relationship with the headmaster (Donald Sutherland in a fun performance) and the other teachers (specifically an outstanding Jay Patterson as a vicious, cruel one). It’s about the boys growing up in this environment. Dinner takes it very seriously.

Except he’s got too much, because he’s supposed to be making this movie about Andrew McCarthy and Mary Stuart Masterson (who actually has the best story in the film). Instead, he wants to make one about pro-hippie priest John Heard bucking the system. But then he goes ahead and makes one about Dillon.

It’s a mess, but a successful one. Until the third act, all of Dinner and Purpura’s tangential moments work out, like Wallace Shawn’s hilarious monologue on lust.

Heaven Help Us is a fine film, but Dinner had all the pieces–Masterson, McCarthy, Heard, Ondrícek, Rotter, composer James Horner–to make a truly excellent one.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Dinner; written by Charles Purpura; director of photography, Miroslav Ondrícek; edited by Stephen A. Rotter; music by James Horner; production designer, Michael Molly; produced by Dan Wigutow and Mark Carliner; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Andrew McCarthy (Michael Dunn), Mary Stuart Masterson (Danni), Kevin Dillon (Rooney), Donald Sutherland (Brother Thadeus), John Heard (Brother Timothy), Jay Patterson (Brother Constance), Malcolm Danare (Caesar), Stephen Geoffreys (Williams), Christopher Durang (Priest), Dana Barron (Janine), Yeardley Smith (Cathleen), Jennifer Dundas (Boo), Kate Reid (Grandma) and Wallace Shawn (Father Abruzzi).


Ordinary People (1980, Robert Redford)

Two really big things to talk about with Ordinary People. The technical filmmaking–John Bailey’s beautiful, muted photography, Jeff Kanew’s actually peerless editing, Redford’s direction in general–and then Timothy Hutton’s performance, his place in the film, Redford’s direction of Hutton in particular. I just as easily could’ve included the treatment of Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore as Hutton’s parents in that list, but Ordinary People is a lot to talk about, a lot to think about and my ambitions are realistic here.

To start–Bailey’s photography, because it has the least to do with how the film needles the viewer. It’s gentle, but always realistic. Bailey’s very careful about the depth, the reality of the locations and how the characters interact with them. When Bailey does break–for a flashback, for instance–the reality has to break a little too. In some ways, the stylized flashbacks are more realistic because they’re from a character’s perspective. The rest of the film is objectively presented, with Bailey’s gently lush photography a comfort.

Redford needs the viewer comfortable, because he wants the viewer to pay attention. To think. There are no explosive scenes in Ordinary People. There are noisy scenes, but it’s not about the noise, it’s not even about how things get noisy. The noisy scenes are about what that noise does to people. But there are maybe three or four noisy scenes in the film. The rest of the time–most of the run time–Redford and editor Kanew are priming the viewer to pay attention.

Ordinary People changes gears in the third act, widening its ambitions. What starts as Hutton’s story becomes much bigger as Hutton is able to emerge from his shell. Hutton gives an exceptional performance, but Redford directs one too. Hutton is both the subject–how characters look at him instructs the viewer how to consider him–and the viewer’s entry into the film, always simultaneously. At the same time, the film isn’t reductive. It’s not a seventeen year-old’s look at his troubled family. It’s often about a seventeen year-old looking at his troubled family, but it’s about a lot more. Screenwriter Alvin Sargent deftly moves between plot lines. The film has this simple narrative structure; Sargent and Redford set it up, trust the viewer to remember it, move on with the film. Redford wants the viewer to get it. They make it brilliantly simple.

Great performances from all the main actors (Hutton, Sutherland, Moore, Judd Hirsch as Hutton’s therapist). Hirsch has the smallest part, but his contributions are essential. Much like Bailey’s photography, Hirsch–tied entirely to one setting–provides a comfort to the viewer, a familiar. Moore has the film’s most difficult role. Sutherland has some amazing moments. Very strong supporting turn from Elizabeth McGovern as Hutton’s love interest. M. Emmet Walsh is a complete asshole as Hutton’s coach, which is a compliment.

Anyway, Ordinary People is a masterpiece.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Redford; screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based on the novel by Judith Guest; director of photography, John Bailey; edited by Jeff Kanew; produced by Ronald L. Schwary; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Timothy Hutton (Conrad), Donald Sutherland (Calvin), Mary Tyler Moore (Beth), Judd Hirsch (Berger), Elizabeth McGovern (Jeannine), Dinah Manoff (Karen), James Sikking (Ray), Fredric Lehne (Lazenby) and M. Emmet Walsh (Salan).


Disclosure (1994, Barry Levinson)

Disclosure is not a serious film. It’s a sensational, workplace thriller with crowd-pleasing moments. There are occasional hints at seriousness, but director Levinson and screenwriter Paul Attanasio (not to mention source novel author Michael Crichton) are more focused on providing entertainment than anything else. Michael Douglas’s protagonist is the least developed character in the entire film. His most honest moments come in brief arguments with his wife (Caroline Goodall in a good, but underwritten role) and on a phone call where the other person isn’t even present.

There are a lot of other good scenes for Douglas. The stuff when he’s talking about gender expectations in the work place with Suzie Plakson, Jacqueline Kim and Rosemary Forsyth–not to mention Roma Maffia as his lawyer–these are all great scenes. They just aren’t honest. Attanasio can write thoughtful exposition and Levinson has assembled an amazing cast to deliver it.

The film succeeds because of how the story’s layered. Levinson and Attanasio bake in all the elements they later need to have cooked for a surprise finish. They even reward the audience in advance of some of these revelations. Disclosure is practically the ideal of successful mainstream filmmaking.

As the villain, Demi Moore is almost in a glorified cameo. She lacks personality, which might have been the point. Donald Sutherland’s good in a mysterious role, so is Dylan Baker. The film’s just wonderfully acted for the most part.

Great score from Ennio Morricone, great editing from Stu Linder.

Disclosure’s good.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Barry Levinson; screenplay by Paul Attanasio, based on the novel by Michael Crichton; director of photography, Tony Pierce-Roberts; edited by Stu Linder; music by Ennio Morricone; production designer, Neil Spisak; produced by Crichton and Levinson; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Michael Douglas (Tom Sanders), Demi Moore (Meredith Johnson), Donald Sutherland (Bob Garvin), Caroline Goodall (Susan Hendler), Roma Maffia (Catherine Alvarez), Dylan Baker (Philip Blackburn), Rosemary Forsyth (Stephanie Kaplan), Dennis Miller (Mark Lewyn), Suzie Plakson (Mary Anne Hunter), Nicholas Sadler (Don Cherry), Jacqueline Kim (Cindy Chang), Joe Urla (John Conley Jr.) and Allan Rich (Ben Heller).


Horrible Bosses (2011, Seth Gordon), the extended cut

It would have been nice if one of the three credited screenwriter of Horrible Bosses thought enough to write characters for the protagonists. Instead, the script–and director Gordon–rely on the “charm” of the three leads. Only, Charlie Day (as a lovable buffoon) and Jason Sudeikis (as a somewhat absent-minded buffoon) and Jason Bateman (as the one suffering having two buffoons for best friends) aren’t charming. They’re trying. Most of the movie is them running around together and it’s lame.

The funny stuff comes with the guest stars. Horrible Bosses has guest stars–the titular bosses are basically guest stars. Or Donald Sutherland and Jamie Foxx popping up and giving the film some semblance of quality before Day and Sudeikis ruin another scene. The three bosses are Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell. Farrell’s in a bald cap, which is impressively believable, but he has no comic timing. Aniston is fantastic. Spacey’s good, but he’s done the role many times so he should be good at it.

The movie actually doesn’t start too bad, opening with Bateman–who can carry this kind of nonsense–and relying heavily on the guest stars. But once Sudeikis and Day take over, it quickly goes down the drain.

Maybe if Gordon was in some way a compelling director, but Bosses is very boring looking. Lousy music from Christopher Lennertz too.

The easy joke would be to call Bosses horrible, but it’s not. It’s just pedestrian. Tiresome and pedestrian, not even horrible.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Seth Gordon; screenplay by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, based on a story by Markowitz; director of photography, David Hennings; edited by Peter Teschner; music by Christopher Lennertz; production designer, Shepherd Frankel; produced by Brett Ratner and Jay Stern; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jason Bateman (Nick Hendricks), Charlie Day (Dale Arbus), Jason Sudeikis (Kurt Buckman), Jennifer Aniston (Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S.), Colin Farrell (Bobby Pellitt), Kevin Spacey (Dave Harken), Donald Sutherland (Jack Pellit) and Jamie Foxx (Dean ‘MF’ Jones).


The Mechanic (2011, Simon West)

It would be going far to say The Mechanic almost succeeds. There’s not very much it could succeed at–while a remake, the film could have been another in star Jason Statham’s Transporter franchise; there’s nothing distinctive about it. Except maybe Mark Isham’s awful score.

The film opens with some of director West’s worst work. Luckily, he tones down his rapid cuts after the pre-title sequence (which clears up whether he makes bad choices intentionally… he does). He never establishes a tone; even in Panavision, he keeps close to the actors and the New Orleans setting is wasted. But he does approach the low end of bland incompetence, an achievement for him.

It helps having Statham around. Statham’s made this film before; not just the Transporter series, but basically everything he headlines. The scenes with him and Ben Foster show what a waste the dumb action genre is for Statham. He can hold his own with Foster, who–and The Mechanic is just another example of it–is the finest character actor of his generation and probably the last too.

Richard Wenk’s script has some fine little moments for Foster and an action scene every seven minutes or so. It’s not clear if Lewis John Carlino (who wrote the original and is credited here as co-writer) actually contributed anything to this version or if the filmmakers didn’t want to call it a remake.

Foster and Statham make it pass easier than it should… but the ending’s still crap.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Simon West; screenplay by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino, based on a story by Carlino; director of photography, Eric Schmidt; edited by T.G. Herrington and Todd E. Miller; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Richard Lassalle; produced by René Besson, Robert Chartoff, William Chartoff, Rob Cowan, Marcy Drogin, Avi Lerner, John Thompson, David Winkler and Irwin Winkler; released by CBS Films.

Starring Jason Statham (Arthur Bishop), Ben Foster (Steve McKenna), Tony Goldwyn (Dean), Donald Sutherland (Harry McKenna), Jeff Chase (Burke), Mini Anden (Sarah) and James Logan (Jorge Lara).


The Italian Job (2003, F. Gary Gray)

So Edward Norton hated making The Italian Job? I’m shocked. (According to the Internet gossip, it was to fulfill a Paramount contract–they even gave him a car… I don’t remember if it was a Mini Cooper). It’s the lamest role Norton’s ever played. As an actor without a persona, he doesn’t belong in the Italian Job at all, since almost everyone is just playing his assumed screen role.

Mos Def is a funny black guy, Jason Statham is the cool British guy, Seth Green is the dorky guy. Only Mark Wahlberg (it would have been amazing if the ad campaign had been “meet the new funky bunch”) doesn’t have a persona. His performance is so bland if he didn’t smile ever three minutes, he’d disappear.

Charlize Theron does a little better than Norton and Wahlberg–though persona free, her character is also absent any presumed personality.

From the first few minutes of the film, it’s impossible to imagine it existing without Ocean’s Eleven. But it’s the studio version of Ocean’s Eleven (it doesn’t even take place in Italy, which disappointed me quite a bit).

Gray is a perfectly adequate director in terms of composition, even in Panavision; the film’s visually engaging if not interesting. His direction of actors is terrible here, but I doubt he really even bothered.

One very nice surprise is John Powell’s score, which is playful and “inventive” enough, it carries whole sequences.

The heists aren’t interesting, but it’s affable enough they don’t need to be.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by F. Gary Gray; written by Donna Powers and Wayne Powers, based on the film written by Troy Kennedy-Martin; director of photography, Wally Pfister; edited by Richard Francis-Bruce and Christopher Rouse; music by John Powell; production designer, Charles Wood; produced by Donald De Line; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Mark Wahlberg (Charlie Croker), Charlize Theron (Stella Bridger), Donald Sutherland (John Bridger), Jason Statham (Handsome Rob), Seth Green (Lyle), Mos Def (Left Ear) and Edward Norton (Steve).


The Assignment (1997, Christian Duguay)

Since it’s Robert Ludlum week here at The Stop Button (actually it’s not, these two were a coincidence), I watched The Assignment, which is an unofficial adaptation of Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy. Again, I read Ludlum back when I was in junior high–maybe early high school–and I remember seeing this film and wondering why it wasn’t credited to him, since it lifts the major twist in the books. Googling reveals no answer and I suppose it is possible The Assignment–coming out of Sony’s now defunct low budget wing, Triumph Films–might have passed under the radar. Or not. M. Night Shyamalan is renowned plagiarist and I don’t think he’s ever been publicly sued. But Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass has certainly seen this film, because he lifted his lauded car chase from it.

Christian Duguay never made it. It would have been hard, given he directed the first two Scanners sequels, but he’s an excellent director. I remember reading–back around the time either this film or Screamers came out–he used steadicam for every shot. Not the shaky steadicam, the “realism” steadicam, just steadicam. The shots have mobility and urgency. He also used CG to allow for interesting camera movements (like crawling down the Wailing Wall). He’s an excellent director. The Assignment’s script fails him, but Duguay is fantastic. There’s a ten or fifteen minute action scene in this film–a long chase from foot to car–and it’s brilliant, one of the finest sustained action scenes ever produced. But even his domestic directing is good. It’s because of this direction–and the acting, more on it in a sentence or two–it’s so obvious The Assignment could have been better. It could have been, with the right script, the Manhunter of espionage movies. Instead, it just shows the super-budgets of Matt Damon’s Bourne movies don’t make them better films.

Obviously, the difference between The Assignment and the Bourne duo is easily identifiable. The Assignment was made for a rational, thinking audience interested in character development and… narrative quality. The script is poor, not bad. There’s a difference. The acting in The Assignment finally reminded me why I like Aidan Quinn so much (I managed to finally get his wavering accent from Blink out of my head). Quinn is fantastic in this film and the role requires him to cover an incredible range of emotion. He’s just great. Ben Kingsley does a good job too, but it’s really Donald Sutherland who has the most fun. I’m not sure how “good” Sutherland’s performance is in The Assignment, but he’s an absolute joy to watch. An actress named Claudia Ferri–who’s in nothing, of course–is great as Quinn’s wife. The acting is so good and there are some dialogue I can’t believe was in the script, you feel like the actors just had to be improvising because it fit their acting so well.

This film is another one where some creative handling of the timeline would help–starting in the middle of the story, not going linear and explaining everything. To some degree, with Quinn playing two roles, they trick the viewer, but it’s not enough. There’s not enough of a hook, or at least as good of a hook if they’d jumbled the timeline. Even though The Assignment has the writing problems, it’s still worth seeing. It’d be worth seeing for either Duguay or the acting alone, but with both… again, all it really needed a good script polish….

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Christian Duguay; written by Dan Gordon and Sabi H. Shabtai; director of photography, David Franco; edited by Yves Langlois; music by Normand Corbeil; production designer, Michael Joy; produced by Tom Berry and Franco Battista; released by Triumph Films.

Starring Aidan Quinn (Annibal Ramirez/Carlos), Donald Sutherland (Jack Shaw), Ben Kingsley (Amos), Liliana Komorowska (Agnieska), Claudia Ferri (Maura Ramirez) and Celine Bonnier (Carla).


The Eagle Has Landed (1976, John Sturges), the extended version

We all know Winston Churchill wasn’t kidnapped or assassinated during World War II–except maybe President Bush, but he’s still waiting for John Rambo to call with info on Osama–so The Eagle Has Landed‘s ending is a bit of a give-away. The film succeeds–to some degree–since it presents the audience with characters they care so much about, the concern for their futures outweighs the known past.

There’s some good acting in The Eagle Has Landed. Donald Sutherland’s Irish accent is a little much, but he’s fine, so’s Michael Caine. Robert Duvall is so good–so amazingly good–I debated getting a copy for my collection. The beginning, the Nazi politics and the planning of the mission, all good. But once the film gets to England, it all goes sour. Once Larry Hagman shows up as an unexperienced American commander, well, you’re glad when he gets it….

John Sturges is good at making the audience identify with the “enemy.” Making you care about them on a human level. He does it with the Nazis here and in The Great Escape and with Confederates in Escape from Fort Bravo. Sturges doesn’t believe that a country’s ideology makes the man–the soldier. All Quiet on the Western Front presents a similar argument, so does The Thin Red Line and even Saving Private Ryan (or so the reviews said, I always read the lullaby scene differently). Sturges creates awkward emotions inside you during this film. The good guy getting killed feels good because he’s the antagonist. When the double agent dies, you’re sorry for her. It’s a big story told on very human levels (Jenny Agutter almost ruins it, of course).

The Eagle Has Landed was Sturges’ last film. The one before was the unbelievably bad John Wayne-Dirty Harry rip-off McQ. I knew I had negative thoughts about Sturges for some reason other than The Magnificent Seven, which was just mediocre. I have a lot of his films recorded, but haven’t seen that many. Probably five or six. But Sturges is good.

And Robert Duvall. Wow. I’m looking through Netflix right now.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by John Sturges; screenplay by Tom Mankiewicz, based on a novel by Jack Higgins; director of photography, Anthony Richmond; edited by Anne V. Coates; music by Lalo Schifrin; produced by Jack Wiener and David Niven Jr.; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Michael Caine (Col. Kurt Steiner), Donald Sutherland (Liam Devlin), Robert Duvall (Col. Max Radi), Jenny Agutter (Molly Prior), Donald Pleasence (Heinrich Himmler), Anthony Quayle (Adm. Wilhelm Canaris), Jean Marsh (Joanna Grey), Sven-Bertil Taube (Captain von Neustadt), Judy Geeson (Pamela Verecker), Siegfried Rauch (Sergeant Brandt), John Standing (Father Verecker), Treat Williams (Capt. Harry Clark) and Larry Hagman (Colonel Pitts).


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