Costa-Gavras puts the United States’ involvement in South American politics under the microscope in this arresting thriller. An urban guerilla group, outraged at the counterinsurgency and torture training clandestinely organized by the CIA in their country (unnamed in the film), abducts a U.S. official (Yves Montand) to bargain for the release of political prisoners; soon the kidnapping becomes a media sensation, leading to violence. Cowritten by Franco Solinas ('The Battle of Algiers'), the electrifying 'State of Siege' piercingly critiques the American government for helping institute foreign dictatorships while also asking difficult questions about the efficacy of radical violent acts to oppose such regimes.
Criterion has picked one excellent film to add to its collection on Blu-ray. In 1972, director Costa-Gavras decided to make a movie based on the kidnapping of a Brazilian diplomat and two American US officials named Claude Fly and Dan Mitrione. It was widely covered in the news as Montevideo, Uruguay and a local guerilla militant group came to a head.
The guerilla group kidnapped these three people and threatened to kill them unless the government released all the political prisoners. Things didn't go so well and the country witnessed a lot of death and destruction before there was a conclusion. Interestingly enough, director Gosta-Gavras shot this film shortly after this incident in Chile with the support of Salvador Allende, and tells the story of what just happened in these turbulent times.
Yves Montand plays Philip Michael Santore (who is basically Mitrione) who is kidnapped by the guerilla group. The movie starts out on the big siege where police discover Santore's body. From here, we flashback to the incidents that lead up to this and why Santore was chosen to be kidnapped. Throughout all of the flashbacks that coincide with each other, director Gavras wanted to point out the differences in the social, political, and financial issues between the government, Santore, and his kidnappers.
He also shows us why the diabolical torture was used and forced on innocent people for testing. The film shifts from the Latin government and the rebels to the USA and Latin America and their differences once Santore's true identity is revealed. 'State of Siege' is fast paced and quite suspenseful, despite seeing Santore dead at the start of the film. Each debate and discussing in the film is filled with great tension as each side seems uneasy and on the brink of a total meltdown at any given moment.
One of the other reasons this movie is so good is that Gavras had a substantial budget this time around and was allowed to work with hundreds and hundreds of extras and actors to recreate the big siege. It is truly mesmerizing how he got all of these actors to perform under these chaotic conditions, and it definitely shows on film, which is purely terrifying at times.
'State of Siege' is an unrelenting look at something that took place in real-life during one of the most violent times in Uruguay. It's also quite beautiful, as Gavras used his cinematic eye to film almost every emotion from both sides on a large scale. This is one film that won't be soon forgotten.
'State of Siege' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. According to Criterion, this is a new restoration under the supervision of director Costa-Gavras, and is a new digital transfer in 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative. Being over 43-years old, this image stands tall till this day and Criterion has done a great job with the new transfer.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade is the color aspect. It has a new look and color scheme from the original film that makes each color pop right off screen. Each color is well-balanced and saturated to a tee. Because of this though, some of the image looks a little flat from time to time, due to the extensive color grading, however it never hinders the viewing experience. The detail is wonderful as well, where almost everything looks vivid and sharp throughout. Closeups reveal strong detail in facial features and costumes.
The wider shots also look amazing and rarely look flat. There is a fine layer of grain, keeping with the original look of the film and never has any major fluctuations due to this new transfer. Skin tones look natural and the black levels are very deep and inky. There were no instances of any dirt, scratches, warps, or debris either, leaving this video presentation with great marks.
This release comes with a French LPCM 1.0 mono mix with English subtitles. There are moments during the film where the film is in English as well. This is a newly remastered track with all of the hiccups manually taken out to give us a fresh and impressive audio track, even though there is not stereo or even 5.1 audio option.
That being said, the sound is well-balanced with a perfect pitch. There isn't much of a score here, but when it does play, it always sounds full and adds to the momentum of the film. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow along with wonderful subtitled that Criterion has provided. You won't have the walls rumbling here, but for what it is, this audio mix is top notch and is free of any pops, cracks, and hiss.
Costa Gavras and Peter Cowie Discussion (HD, 32 Mins.) - Here is a discussion between the director of the film and film historian Peter Cowie that was recorded in January of 2015 for Criterion. Gavras discusses what went on during the filming of this movie, how he got to make it, and some behind the scenes information that nobody really knew about. This is a fantastic conversation for fans of the film.
NBC News Broadcast on Dan A. Mitrione (HD, 8 Mins.) - Here is the original broadcast of the real life guy Dan A. Mitrione who was basically the main character in the film. Mitrione was kidnapped, killed, and tortured a lot of people.
Criterion Booklet - The usual Criterion booklet is included that contains information on the film, cast, and crew, as well as an essay by journalist Mark Danner.
'State of Siege' is a fantastic film that shows us the true life events of one of the most violent and turbulent times in Uruguay where a lot of people were killed, including a few top official Americans. It's a beautiful and chaotic movie, one that demands to be seen, and Criterion has definitely knocked it out of the park. The video and audio presentations are both excellent and the two extras are both worth watching, which leaves the Criterion release HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!