A WWII veteran is minding his own business, living his life, and reminiscing about the past. Shortly after being mugged, two governmental officials come request his help in finding and eliminating a major threat to the population. As he searches for his legacy and what he stands for, he decides to go and help them with this one last mission.
Writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski takes this premise and makes it an incredibly touching and powerful film about a man who lives alone with his memories. The film shows the effects of one event on someone’s life, how doing something incredible and being known for it can actually lead to a life of loneliness for a man doing what he can to remember and figure out if he wants to be remembered or forgotten. The film builds its characters each with their own strengths and weaknesses, giving them life and dimensionality. It’s one of those films that needs to be experienced to be felt, to be understood. Here the script and direction are very careful, very precise, with each scene meaning something, each image having a purpose.
One of main aspects of the film, after the writing and directing, is the cast. Here in the lead of Calvin Barr, two actors give tremendous performances. As Calvin as the viewer first meets him and as the version of the character that is the one reminiscing, Sam Elliott does what he does best, act on a level that feels natural, filled with nuances and small distinctions that create a character that is the strong silent type and doesn’t take any bullshit. His emotions come across on his face and through his voice beautifully, pulling the viewer in, keeping their attention, enthralling them to keep watching and listening. Playing the younger version of Calvin Barr, the one being reminisced about is Aidan Turner who manages to connect with Elliott’s performance in a manner that is almost visceral. They are the same man, at different times in his life and with different events having influenced his evolution. Young Barr has seen less in life, is a bit more fearless and this comes across in Turner’s performance here. The two of them together, Elliott and Turner, create a complete character, a man, who has a lot to say but doesn’t talk a lot. Their performances are the anchors of the film and they both give it their all. Playing a character that is a turning point in Barr’s life is Caitlin FitzGerald as Maxine, the love of his life, the one he lost too soon, the person who influenced how he recalls the past and how he lives now. FitzGerald gives a performance her that is charming and light for most of her screen time until things change for her and she needs to protect herself. She creates a character that is easy to fall in love with while still being a complex woman with needs, hopes, and dreams. Her character doesn’t get as much time but she definitely makes the most of it. As a testament to the writing, directing, and casting, the entirety of the cast gives nuanced, subtle performances that add to the film and let the central subject shine.
Making the film shine in more ways than one is the cinematography by Alex Vendler who frames each scene, each image with careful attention, creating a look for the film that is cohesive with the story and from scene to scene while still managing to create a look that is unique to each scene’s needs. The way light is used in a few scenes, in the darkness particularly, is stunning. Darker scenes are lit with ambient light and placement for the light and characters works in creating an intimacy at times and a distance at others. The look of the film is not only careful and calculated, it’s effective and beautiful.
Playing an important part near the end of the film are the practical special effects by Spectral Motion and Mike Elizalde who designed and brought to life one of the titular character. Their work together with actor Mark Steger brings the Bigfoot to the screen in a believable manner, keeping his look familiar with a few changes that make him specific to this film.
The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot is much more than its title implies. While yes the lead does do these things, it’s not what the film is all about, it’s about a man searching for himself, questioning his life, his legacy, his value in his society, subjects many people can connect with. The film is incredibly well-made with talent behind all angles of the film and bold choices working out fascinatingly well on screen. The performances of Sam Elliott and Aidan Turner show the attention to details and the selection of perfect players for each item works perfectly here. Their work is stunning and attracting, bringing all the attention to them and the story they are telling.
Fantasia 2018 runs from July 12th to August 2nd, 2018.