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critics consensus

Powerfully effective, this anti-fascist political thriller stands out as both high-conscience melodrama and high-tempo action movie. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Repression is the rule of the day in this film that skewers Greek governance of the 1960s. Z (Yves Montand), a leftist rabble rouser, is killed in what appears to be a traffic accident. But given the political climate, the death of such a prominent activist raises troubling questions. Though it's too late to save Z's life, a postmortem examination suggests that the ruling party was behind his death. As the facts leak out, those who tell the truth pay the price for their honesty.

Cast & Crew

Yves Montand
The deputy
Irene Papas
Helene, the deputy's wife
Jean-Louis Trintignant
The examining magistrate
Jacques Perrin
Photojournalist
François Périer
Public prosecutor
Pierre Dux
The general
Vassilis Vassilikos
Writer
Eric Schlumberger
Associate Producer
Phillippe d'Argila
Associate Producer
Mikis Theodorakis
Original Music
Raoul Coutard
Cinematographer
Jacques D'Ovidio
Production Design
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Critic Reviews for Z

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (3)

Audience Reviews for Z

  • Sep 13, 2018
    Absolutely chilling. At the end, seriously, as I sat stunned while the credits rolled by, I felt like curling up in the fetal position. It's a powerful, powerful film, based on the real-life 1963 assassination of anti-war activist Grigoris Lambrakis in Greece by right-wing thugs, who were sponsored by the military dictatorship in power at the time. With corruption going to the highest level of government, one using dirty tricks, intimidation, spying, attacks on the free press, assault, and murder, you might feel enraged while watching it, or powerless. Jean-Louis Trintignant turns in a great performance as the magistrate who looks into what is stated to be a drunk driving accident by the police. We feel the tension as he tries to uncover the truth, coming across disturbing facts. He has to withstand coercion from a General (Pierre Dux), but at the same time, beware that politics on the other side weren't somehow involved. We feel for so many characters here - one that comes forward as a witness, only to be attacked, the activists demonstrating against nuclear arms, who are beaten up by the police, and the magistrate himself, whose career is threatened unless he 'plays ball'. The bravery required is humbling. The film and its direction from Costa-Gavras feels very much a product of its time, and yet also modern, and timeless. In little moments he lightens the tone, such as when a series of officers all try to exit out the wrong door as they're led out of the courtroom. Even there, aside from the humor, one could see it as commentary on human folly, and how we repeat the same mistakes with a rotating cast of characters over time. The American support of the dictatorship is barely referenced, and yet we feel it there, heavy in the background, and it's shameful - so shameful that the film was accused of being 'Anti-American' in politically charged 1969. It's so ironic that in defending against the evils of communism, governments often employ the very same totalitarian, heavy-handed tactics against their citizens. They're so busy generating propaganda and demonizing the enemy that they don't notice that they've started becoming like the enemy. It's not unlike decrying the cruelty of extremists in our own time, and then turning around and authorizing torture. What it really means is to be wary of anyone in power, for some will go to any lengths to hold on to it. I think of the quote "That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be," and thank goodness for films like this, which simply tell the truth, even if it is a punch in the gut.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 03, 2017
    The film's anti-fascism always reads as raw and angry but never unfocused. A remarkable thriller.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 03, 2014
    One of the better political thrillers and certainly the best that France has produced in the genre.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • May 06, 2013
    Quick cutting, understated characters, uniformly excellent acting and powerful themes are what make "Z" such a good political thriller. There are parts where the story drags, but those moments are far and few between, and for the most part, we're watching with a deep fascination at the underhandedness of the Greek government.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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