Z (1969)

"Z", like the Fritz Lang film "M", is much more than a single letter. It carries the weight of a culture, a political movement, and a period in time. It is a powerhouse of a film, standing alone as perhaps the best political commentary and thriller to come to film yet.
What makes the film, besides the fact that it is so effortlessly constructed and executed, is that it is remarkably entertaining. The beginning of the film lets us know that any similarity we find to real people is not coincidental...it was intentional. Based on the assassination of a Greek politician named Grigoris Lambrakis, "Z" is a movie about government corruption.
I don't think that America has brought forth a great movie about this topic yet...we're working on it. Perhaps it's because we are all so close to the source material, some one will find it offensive and wrong. With "Z", Costa-Gavras made a movie about his home country, Greece...but he made it in France. What this did, is open the eyes of viewers who had never heard of Lambrakis or the situation that resulted thereafter. Whatever the reasons for why Costa-Gavras made the film where and when he did, "Z" is still a masterpiece.
The government rules all in the film. They are completely tyrannical, but see themselves as a democracy, willing to accept all kinds of people and ideas. They assume that any protests will be quelled by a natural source of violence, like antibodies fighting off a disease. These "antibodies" may need a little assistance from the police force.
A peace demonstration goes terribly wrong as government officers and policemen are determined to keep things the way they were while maintaining the facade of being open to all ideologies. They embrace the tightrope on which they walk, seemingly thinking that they are morally superior to all those who are involved.
The officials hire men to stage a riot, one that soon over-envelops itself and becomes as close to a massacre as possible.
The peace activists are given the cold shoulder, it's word against word.
Then in comes a new magistrate who will overlook the case. He soon finds a world that is corrupted with murder, violence, and under the table scheming.
As a movie, "Z" might just be as flawless as they come. It's never boring, never overstays its welcome, and makes use of every single scene. It doesn't leave everything spelled out for the viewer, no, you may have to work while watching this film. There is one glaring question left unanswered, but I do think that that was intentional.
What is more interesting than anything else in "Z" is the lack of a clear main character. Some movies shift main characters halfway through, but this doesn't. It jumps from the "good guys" to the "bad guys" without hesitation. It introduces new characters swiftly and, just as quick, removes them from the screen.
This movie is the inspiration for a film like "Argo"; but it exceeds Ben Affleck's movie by leaps and bounds. It manages to make you feel present, in that culture, and that is a very rare feeling to accomplish. There is great peril in "Z" that wasn't present in "Argo". It's a thriller, a political message, and a biting commentary.
It's a visionary work and it is carried out on the backs of its tremendous cast. The most notable acting is done by the legendary Jean-Louis Trintignant.
A cheerful score and beautiful cinematography makes "Z" feel like "Brazil", then it changes gears and the mystery starts to overtake the viewer.
"Z" presents a kaleidoscope of emotion, a movie that should not be missed, a movie that demands to be watched.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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