Sometimes when you dive into the concept of a ‘what if’ and melding science fiction with a certain degree of fact, in can generate some fairly scary results as one man’s dream can quite easily turn into a nightmare. While an obvious piece of fiction, The Boys From Brazil is firmly rooted in just enough facts to make this a truly gripping ‘What If’ kind of story that makes us scared of history genuinely repeating itself.
Ezra Lieberman (Lawrence Olivier) has made a name for himself tracking down the last remnants of the Third Reich but his best years are behind him as he is now a little too old to be chasing leads across the globe. However when he gets drawn into a mysterious plot to assassinate 94 different men all across the globe who seemingly have no connection to one another, he uncovers a terrifying secret that could mean an unspeakable threat to the entire human race as he is set on a collision course with the one war criminal he could never track down until now, Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) the infamous Angel of Death himself.
While it isn’t without its flaws, The Boys From Brazil draws us in on a suspense laden ride that you’ll need to pinch yourself as a reminder that the events are just pure fiction, as the film scares us in the best way possible. You’ll suspend your disbelief and lose yourself in one of the most potent ‘What If’ scenarios ever put to the screen.
Director Franklin J Schaffner in what was the most successful and prolific time in his career puts together a tight and fast moving yarn and while it throws a lot at the screen, more than enough of it sticks as we immediately by into the emotional connection of the material. The script from Heywood Gould who adapted the novel by Ira Levin for the screen never drags at any moment and despite the occasionally over the top bit of dialogue it manages to build tension and get us invested in the characters. In many ways it plays like a 70’s political thriller meets Grumpy Old Men as we see all these historical figures in it going for one last stab at glory in a world that has for the most part forgotten them. It’s a story of men grasping to their place in history and trying to relive glory days that have passed them by.
It’s not one of the performance that he’ll be remembered for in his career, but Olivier was quite solid as Ezra Lieberman who gets drawn out of retirement one last time to track down what started out as an annoyance but becomes an absolute necessity for humanity as he learns the truth behind this diabolical plot. Mengele was originally supposed to be played by George C Scott, but Gregory Peck slides into the role of the maniacal doctor quite comfortably and you can tell how much fun he is having by chewing the scenery at every turn. He plays the role with a genuine sense of manic desperation and seeing all unfold is such a beautiful thing as he desperately holds on to this plan that he has worked on for so very long, while James Mason as Eduard Seibert brings a level of balance to it all as even a loyal Nazi such as himself can see how Mengele has lost all perspective. There are a few other familiar faces include an appearance from a young Steve Guttenberg but this movie comes down to the old men, one who can let the past remain dormant and the other who has to bring back the glory of his beloved Third Reich by any means necessary.
It’s not a perfect movie…but if you can let yourself get swept up in the narrative of it all, no matter how ridiculous it gets, The Boys From Brazil is a legitimate piece of quality entertainment that won’t scare you flat out, but the more you thinking about it, the more it will get under your skin and stick with you.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are solid and the special features are sadly just the theatrical trailer.