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Gian Maria Volontè,
CIA agent Henry Silva is manipulated into penetrating an organization to discover its members and plans
I watched a lovely widescreen version of this movie, which was an Italian production.
"Assassination" features a very strong performance by Henry Silva. Time after time, scene after scene and line after line, he delivers with an impact one really feels. Even when he says little, he makes an impact. However, Silva alone cannot overcome the overly cold story telling. While murkiness is common to spy stories, it still seems that there is a general failure in this movie for the script and the story telling to develop the appropriate empathy and/or tragedy for Silva's character.
The movie features some nice photography. In one sequence, Silva strides through downtown New York City amid crowds and in broad daylight, and we see the Coca-Cola sign in Times Square, the Rockefeller Plaza skating rink, Hotel Astoria and other sights of that time. Other sequences show Hamburg and some of its port, not a frequent sight in American movies. For the most part, however, the filming is a standard mixture of good sets and outdoor scenes.
The film is directed competently but not exceptionally by Emilio Miraglia. I suspect there were problems in how to maintain suspense while dealing with a script that's at times murky. The prime example of this is that we are not let into the assassination plot until very far into the movie and even then the reason for it is treated hastily.
Silva is a CIA agent (John Chandler) who has doublecrossed others, but we are not told how or what he gained. He has been framed by his bosses for murder through some means to which we are not privy but involving a supposed friend (Fred Beir) of the family who actually wants Silva's wife (Ida Galli) and may have had an affair with her. We later learn that she did have an affair with someone. The story opens with all of this in the past. Silva is in prison awaiting execution and we see him being taken to the electric chair.
Silva is put through this ordeal by his bosses so that they can rescue him, bring him back as his brother Philip, and restore his usefulness to them as an agent. This is made clear immediately after his supposed execution where he has undergone some plastic surgery, been made to stop drinking and started smoking, the opposite of the supposedly dead John.
I do believe that more sympathy should have been developed about what Silva had been put through. He has been made to lose his wife, for one thing. However, although he clearly loves her, he has bitterness over her affair.
Silva's task is to penetrate an organization whose members and aims are murky to the CIA. After Beir marries Galli and goes to Hamburg, Silva is instructed and motivated to follow. At this point, the organization comes out into the open partially and abducts Silva. It wants to use him as a patsy, to blame an assassination on him. It suspects that he is really John, not the mythical Philip. He goes along with their plans, no doubt suspecting that they want to use him. We know this only later because he kills the assassin ready to kill him as soon as he assassinates the organization's target.
The target of the plot is a head of state conducting talks about the reunification of Germany. The idea is to torpedo those talks and keep East Germany in the Soviet sphere. That reunification actually didn't occur until 1990, some 23 years after this film.
If the idea of the story was to show the generally cold and inhuman world of government spy organizations, this movie succeeded. But it did so at the cost of giving us a protagonist that's hard to identify with.
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