(1988, Fr/US, 130 min) Dir Roland Sacher. Cast Christopher Lambert, Antonio Banderas, Fernando Rey.
Tense Day of the Jackal style thriller based on true life events surrounding the assassination of former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle while he was living in exile in Alfredo Stroessner’s Paraguay. The guts of the film detail the lead up to the act itself – how the team entered the country, how they were armed, the months of meticulous monitoring of Debayle’s movements. The scene of the assassination itself is suspense brought to the point of dread perfection – as if the lead up to Debayle’s car being stopped in the road wasn’t bad enough the rocket launcher that is to deliver the killing blow suddenly stops working and Banderas’ character has mere seconds to act. I could feel everyone in the cinema leaning into the screen at that moment and could hear the sound of gripped armrests creaking under the stress. Everything works here from the unshowy performances to the matter of fact photography to the clear, propulsive editing. This is the film that set Sacher back on the straight and narrow after a string of flops and misfires, setting him up nicely for his streak of classics through the nineties.