Disgruntled John Steiner takes hostages, including Claudia Cardinale, while Tony Musante tries to outwit him
"Goodbye & Amen" is a well above-average euro-crime story and well worth seeing. It's one of those stories where a man holds hostages in a closed space, here a hotel room, and where those outside attempt to get him and free the hostages. It made me think, for example, of "Dial 1119". But the story is much more than that, and the director, Damiano Damiani, once again shows how excellent he was.
I feared that the action of the story might be too space-restricted, but this turned out not to be the case. The plot had ample opportunities to open the story out to other locations, because of its cleverness in linking the hostage taker (John Steiner) to a CIA character played by Tony Musante and to the American ambassador played by John Forsythe.
This story is for one thing an indictment of the callousness, arrogance, risk-taking interference and amorality of the CIA, personified here by Tony Musante's character. The story begins and ends with a focus on him and what he does. In between there is much more focus on Steiner, but never leaving Musante's machinations far from view.
The hostage plot and the CIA plot are so tightly connected that they merge into one story. However, in emotional and thematic terms, there are two stories here. John Steiner does an outstanding job playing a man damaged by disease during his time working in Thailand for the U.S. "Special Branch". The government then shifted him to being a chauffeur for a CIA agent in the Rome embassy, a man named Harry Lambert; but they didn't really handle his recurring illness.
Musante is working on a CIA plot to engineer a coup in an African country and put in a new U.S.-backed president. When his plans seem to be made known in Rome with the appearance of a secret agent from that land, he suspects a leak and fastens on Lambert as a double agent. Separately, Steiner has chosen this time to start sniping at people and taking hostages. They are a married actress, Claudia Cardinale, and her lover on the side, an actor named Jack.
So we have the tense Steiner story being played out and we are unsure what he's up to and how he plans to come out a winner. Along the way, John Forsythe decides it's his responsibility to try to persuade Steiner to give himself up. Forsythe becomes a hostage too. At the same time, Musante is cooking up a plot to dispose of Lambert and Steiner.
I rate this 7.5 and I've rounded it up to 8 because the story has some depth, the tension is handled well, a number of characters are developed well, the photography is fine, the direction is smooth, and I particularly liked the performances turned in by Steiner and Musante, with Cardinale making her mark too.
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