Take 2 with Grubby Gert and her Christopher Plummer obsession. This time a thriller-drama-thing and – oh yes – another Plummer-in-the-bath scene. There’s no sappy love story, however, so things are more tolerable (viz Elsa & Fred (2012)) and Plummer gives something of a mesmerizing performance as Auschwitz survivor Zev Guttman, peeking through the curtains of his dementia, to hunt down the guard who killed his beloved family way back when…he just has to Remember.
You may be hesitating at this point and questioning the taste of the enterprise. And you’d be right. It’s not exactly a subtle assessment of dementia as a personality-wrecker. There are moments of poignancy, but, if anything, they’re about Plummer’s impressive skill at suggesting the fifth time he’s remembered his mission, or the tenth time he calls out for Ruth, his again-remembered dead wife. Alzheimer’s as plot-device isn’t wildly respectful of the late-night wanderers in B Wing, but, you know…old Jack kind of enjoyed the tragedy of it all. And Plummer certainly gives a star’s performance: dazzled and frazzled and straining to keep existing as a viable human being.
So, to the plot: his wife died a week ago and, with the help of Martin Landau‘s borderline Vincent Pricey Max Rosenbaum, sets out on the mission to track down this bastard guard from WW2. The man had come to the Americas, stealing the identity of one Rudy Kurlander. Max has written the more active Zev (it means wolf) a letter to keep him on his journey to check out all the Rudy Kurlanders on the continent and kill the evil one. So, Plummer escapes the rather lovely care hospital (rooms made homely with incumbents’ possessions) and heads off on the train.
Now, old Jack here worked out the entire plot some 90 minutes before Grubby Gert got the point. She was slavering over Plummer, muttering something about Captain von Trapp still got it. I didn’t like to probe. His journey is a bit linear, but there is thrilleresque tension as he buys a gun, sneaks into Canada, walks in terror up to each Rudy Kurlander ready to kill…whilst fending off his forgetfulness and the constant risk of getting caught. He meets a bunch of character actors along the way, most impressively Dean Norris as John Kurlander, son of one of the Nazi-obsessed Rudys. Norris gives a genuinely sane-to-horrifying performance, scaring old Zev ’til he stains the sofa. I couldn’t take my eyes off their scenes together: convinced by each, horrified by the crassness of what was happening, and a bit…unbelieving until I remembered Trump’s voter-base.
Another aside on taste: hmmmmm, not great. Gert got to see Plummer take a shower and swish around in a dressing-gown while I wondered whether the whole film was going the way it seemed to be…and that’s not a good place given how Zev’s disease deserves to be handled (Dotty (2014) this ain’t). And then it went there…
The ending happens and – whilst neat – feels like an intrusion from a movie where the lead remembers himself. It happens in the most wonderful log-cabinny house, is as sharp and shocking as you’d expect, and Plummer holds on to the complexity of his character, but…really?? Grubby Gert sobbed, which at least cleaned her face.
It is a watchable film, enjoyable not least for Plummer’s fascinating, subtle performance and what Landau can do with nasal tubes. But…the mix of thriller and character degradation is awkward and makes you tense for the wrong reasons.
This is on the Prime bit of Amazon Video.