Release date: Dec. 12
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Prior Oscar winners: Norman Jewison (1998 Thalberg award), Michael Caine (“Cider House Rules,” “Hannah and Her Sisters”), Ronald Harwood (adapted screenplay, “The Pianist”)
After last year’s “The Quiet American,” Michael Caine returns once again to Graham Green territory with “The Statement.” This time out, the story is based on a book by celebrated novelist Brian Moore (“The Black Robe”), adapted by scribe-playwright Ronald Harwood and helmed by Norman Jewison, who has piled up seven Oscar nominations throughout his directing-producing career.
Caine plays Pierre Brossard, a shadowy fugitive from the law who is accused of ordering the execution of seven Jews during WWII as an officer in the Vichy government in France. Tilda Swinton (“The Deep End”) is the judge investigating and pursuing Brossard, who has been charged with crimes against humanity; Jeremy Northam is the colonel who assists her.
Along the way, it’s intimated that elements of the French right wing and the French Catholic Church don’t want Brossard brought to trial for fear that their complicity in these crimes might be brought to light. Therefore Brossard is a hunted man on several fronts, from his accusers to his erstwhile allies to his victims.
All the elements of an intelligent political thriller are in place, from Harwood, who won the Oscar last year for adapting Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir “The Pianist” into a triumph for director Roman Polanski, to Jewison, somewhat of a master of dramas with a social conscience, whether dealing with racism within the establishment (“In the Heat of the Night,” “A Soldier’s Story”) corruption within the criminal court system (“… And Justice for All,” “The Hurricane”).
Caine — with two supporting Academy Awards and four other nominations — is one of those perennial Oscar contenders whose instincts make his portrayals seem effortless, which actors love. Although the film was not screened at press time, the ambiguity of Caine’s character in terms of moral fiber — perhaps not as reflective and sympathetic as his portrayal of world-weary journalist Thomas Fowler in “The Quiet American” — make give pause to certain Acad members.
Supporting cast is impressive, from Swinton and Northam to Charlotte Rampling (who also starred in this year’s “Swimming Pool”) as Brossard’s estranged wife Nicole and Alan Bates as the shady minister Bertier.
Among the production crew, Jean Rabasse stands out, having been nominated for his work on the opulent period 17th-century period pic “Vatel.”