This is really two very separate movies. It is pretty fantastic, but kind of lacks that "ummph" of being absolutely great.
The first twenty minutes had me riveted. Honestly, I kind of wish I stayed up and watched past the first twenty minutes, but I was plum exhausted last night and gosh darn it if Grand Theft Auto 4 was calling me for most of the day. But the first half of the movie is Road to Perdition, only considerably better. This is a story about a family at its heart initially. We see a man who we know is evil, but all we see is the good in him. He is a decent father who wants to be free of the life of his past. But there is something far more evil that Sautet lets us in on. It's not in the escape that makes him evil. It's the joy that he gets from escape.
There is no denying that he is selfish man. I suppose that's what this movie is about. We can confuse simply having a family with being a father. He is physically a father and loves his kids. But he selfishly loves them. He ensures their safety because they make him feel like a man. They make him feel human. But he does little for them. There's this extremely powerful scene where the family is sitting in a church and he makes his son, perhaps inadvertently, part of his con and his strategy. He does it so he can protect his son, but that's not what the role of a father is.
The second half of the movie is very different. The second half of the movie is a tale of obsession and greed. There's pangs of paranoia that run through this part of the movie that lead to the eventual downfall of this character. Yes, I thought the same things that the main character thought about his friends. I thought they should get in the ambulance and haul ass to go get him. But they also presented a really valid point. Not only that, but they were responsible for getting him to Paris without incident. Heck, if they hadn't done what they had done, there would have been a good chance that things wouldn't have worked out for the best. Also, that new friendship would not have blossomed. Call me a schoolgirl, but I think that part of the story is actually fairly vital. But the character can't live in a life of peace and that is really an interesting take on the criminal anti-hero.
The more I think about this movie, the more props I give it. I just upped it another half-star. There's a lot of alyers going into this movie, but there are some real flaws. Like I mentioned, this is two films. I think that I would have loved to investigate both stories more fully. We never really got the downfall of the wife's death and the end seems to be a series of gangland hits as opposed to a collapse into suspicion and insanity. Both sections touch on these important ideas, but neither full on embraces them. Also, the end is slightly weak. The concept behind the end was fantastic. I loved the fact that he gave up after all of that. I think that's the only way that could have ended. But the absolute last narration just seemed almost rushed. Almost like they weren't sure on how to end the movie and that was the safest way to go. I disagree with some of the choices, but it was still absolutely fantastic.
There's a lot of things going on with this movie and I don't really know how to classify it. The back of the box calls it a film noir. I don't think that is entirely accurate. MOre of the movie is about the escape than the mystery. The film clearly lays out its cards and you know what every character is about with the first few minutes of their introduction, with the exception of the main character who does de-evolve throughout the film. I would consider this a tale of paranoia and crime. That's probalby significantly more important than the mystery involved with the story. It's a very cool watch, but I don't think it would ever make one of those absolutely great French crime stories. It's a cool movie among other cool movies.