Z November 28, 2017
2 Hrs., 7 Mins.
much as we feel as if we’re sitting through a particularly stylish documentary. The movie rings so true in its writing and its performances – with its ideas intelligently represented and its depiction of dramatic events so searing, too – we hesitate to even call it a movie. So immersive in its every step, we might as well be investigating alongside Jean-Louis Trintignant’s examining magistrate.
2. The key to an exceptional conspiracy thriller, in addition to simply being believable, is a confident leaning into the fears and furies of those consuming it. Z excites, in no doubt, but that excitement does not solely derive from laborious sequences of suspense nor genre-specific action scenes. The cause of our pulse pounds and goose pimples is the seeing of a corrupt government commit an atrocity and either intimidate or bribe bystanders into helping them get away with it. The seeing of an oppressively conservative, and unabashedly crooked, political regime mostly make up the majority, and, despite the film’s obvious good-always-conquers-evil ideologies, ultimately win. The seeing of so many everyday heroes – such as Trintignant’s magistrate, Yves Montand’s doomed democratic politician, Jacques Perrin’s savvy photojournalist, among others – put on brave faces as they walk into surefire danger. The seeing of an epilogue that clarifies that sometimes what we perceive to be sound morality and goodness does not always defeat authority unafraid of perpetuating violence. (And that the title itself is a loaded symbol.)
3. Z is so perfect, it’s no wonder Costa-Gavras could never recreate its success. This is a film so of-the-moment, so much the product pent-up fury finally making its escape, and so carefully realized in its every satirical stab and stylistic embellishment, it is the sort of movie most filmmakers chase after for the entirety of their careers. Costa-Gavras just managed to make this kind of elusive masterstroke just as he was getting started.
4. Not an actor is wasted in Z. Akin to a 1,000-piece puzzle, the components are not equally spotlighted but nonetheless are all comparably crucial. Nobody appears to be giving a performance here. Among the standouts are Montand, so sad-eyed and wearied; Trintignant, blunter than a freshly sharpened sword slicing through its holder’s enemy; Perrin, cheestached, wiry, and monkey-suited in a way that enhances his boy wonder aptitude; Papas, silently hysterical as the widow; and Clotilde Joanno as the cool and confident sometimes-sidekick who’s placid even when faced with the most stressful of a situation.
5. In times of any sort of political tumult, Z feels especially relevant. Taking the hellscape that has grown as a result of the divide between the United States and most of the population into consideration, the viewing of the feature is given an extra layer of intensity – and another reason for immediate viewing. A
ive things that occurred to me while watching Z, Costa-Gavras’ harrowing 1969 political thriller:
1. Though it semi-fictitiously recreates the events surrounding the fishy 1963 assassination of the liberal, Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis, Z does not feel like a sensationalized dramatization. Like other great conspiracy thrillers, from All the President’s Men (1976) to The Insider (1999), we do not so much feel as though we’re watching exaggerated cinematic footage as