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Anytime there's a movie based on a historical figure, one hopes to gain
an insight into the individual or an important event that he/she was
involved with. If you know nothing about what happened to Pinochet,
you'll learn a little (but very little) from this movie.
Basically, it's about 'retired' Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's unexpected arrest in England during a vacation. The story covers a brief period of about 2 years.
Unfortunately, there's not much to tell - or learn from this movie except for a little bit of history and some minor characterization. You don't really get to know Pinochet much at all. In 1 1/4 hours of storytelling, not a whole lot happens either.
If you don't know about about Pinochet's arrest and are interested in it, this movie can give you some information about it - but you won't get much else.
The film has value as an effort to reveal the character of one of one
of the most notorious perpetrators of crimes against humanity of the
last quarter century. Having evaded prosecution for murder, torture,
corruption, and other crimes in Chile, Pinochet remains a mystery to
most people in his own country as well as to the world. (Contrast him
with, say, Slobodan Milosevic, whose appearance in the World Court
showed much of his personality and warped intelligence.) Jacobi's
capable portrayal casts Pinochet as an ideologically blinded individual
whose utter lack of remorse is evident in his failure to perceive the
obvious ironies of the situation and the indignities he faces. Those
ironies are the source of much of the film's humor as well as its
Another good performance comes from Anne Massey as Lady Thatcher, who shows how atrocities happen with the active or tacit approval of leaders of so-called democracies. (That said, the nation that in fact helped bring Pinochet to power and kept him there goes unmentioned.)
The film's weakness lies in its story line, particularly its scatter-shot efforts to coax drama out of events that are already known. There are several threads here: Home Secretary Jack Straw's rebellious son, who urges him to extradite Pinochet to Spain, a young female police officer who abides the General's imperious attitude and his macho posturing, and Chilean refugee in England Nicole Drouilly (a consultant to the film), still trying to find out what happened to her sister who disappeared 24 years earlier.
Despite its flaws, this film is valuable as a character study, letting us into--if only in a limited way--the mind of a dictator and exploring the personality traits that would lead someone to rise to a position of power and then remorselessly order the murder and torture of his own people.
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