Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1982. Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Costa-Gavras, Donald Stewart, based on the book by Thomas Hauser. Cinematography by Ricardo Aronovich. Produced by Edward Lewis, Mildred Lewis. Music by Vangelis. Production Design by Peter Jamison. Costume Design by Joe I. Tompkins. Film Editing by Francoise Bonnot.
Sissy Spacek lives in an unnamed South American country where her husband has just been taken by military forces for unknown reasons. Within days, her conservative father-in-law (Jack Lemmon) flies in from the U.S. and joins her in scouring the entire country in search of his son. This fact-based, terrifying thriller succeeds thanks to Costa-Gavras’s uncompromising direction and top-notch performances by the two leads. A strong sense of foreigners in a foreign land makes for an even stronger sense of isolation and dread, but what really makes it perfection is its dead-on combination of the personal and political: Spacek and Lemmon argue politics as much as they bicker about their personal feelings (Lemmon always objected to their liberal ways), and one never overpowers the other. This is an unforgettable motion picture, the best of its year and one of the best of the decade.
The Criterion Collection: #449
Academy Award: Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Jack Lemmon); Best Actress (Sissy Spacek)
Cannes Film Festival Awards: Palme d’Or (tie); Best Actor (Jack Lemmon)
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Jack Lemmon); Best Actress-Drama (Sissy Spacek); Best Director (Costa-Gavras); Best Screenplay