Matti Kassila, the director of another critically acclaimed thriller, "Kaasua, Komisario Palmu" (1961), is one of the few Finnish directors who have a natural eye for establishing a spine-tingling and admittably sometimes scary mood simply with carefully selected angles and a soundtrack to match.
"Jäähyväiset presidentille" tells the story of a disgruntled weapons expert who has reached a conclusion: someone has to assassinate the president, in order to make a political and ethical statement. And since no one else will, it's up to him to do it. But first he will have to take out some general public, to prepare for the main event.
What sets this movie apart from many other films that deal with the assassination of a president, is not only the fact that the president being portrayed here is not a fictitious one, but Urho Kekkonen, a brilliant politics strategist who led the country for a quarter of a century, and still remains as the most remembered, respected and admired head of state Finland has known. Also, the events take place in a country where no one has, to date, ever tried to actually assassinate the president.
It is difficult to take a natural and realistic setting, and combine it with a string of events which would be very unlikely to take place in that setting - and still make it work. This is where Kassila, however, perfectly succeeds. Hannu Lauri makes a brilliant performance as the cold-hearted, on-edge sociopath - and yet he is the opposite of the typical Hollywood-style assassin; he doesn't have a background in Secret Service or Special Forces, he seems nothing more than a regular joe from the street who gives the credit for his bitterness to the government.
This movie is the first of its kind in Finland, and has ever since been the last. Not many would have the nerve to try and pull this off in Finland and not have it seem a ridiculously unrealistic movie. But in the hands of Kassila, it seems, anything can turn into gold.
Enjoy the movie.
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