State of Siege (1972) Poster

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10/10
When will this film be released on DVD?
jlibby7112 March 2003
"State of Siege" is a terrific movie with the same look and feel as Costa-Gavras's other classic of the period, "Z." Set in Uruguay, "State of Siege" was actually filmed in Chile during the Allende presidency, and was ironically released shortly before the coup that overthrow Allende (the subject, of course, of "Missing," another Costa-Gavras film).

"Z" was released on DVD last year in a newly restored version with excellent additional materials (modern interviews of Costa Gavras and Jorge Semprun, who wrote the screenplay, as well as interviews with the actors). My question is, when will "State of Siege" receive the same treatment? It is not available for sale in the US in any form, and is almost impossible to find as a rental. Now that "Z" is available in such an excellent edition, its about time "State of Siege" was too.
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10/10
A Testimony of the History of Latin America in the 70's
claudio_carvalho20 October 2005
In the early 70's, in Uruguay, the revolutionary group Tupamaro kidnaps an American trainer of torture and the Brazilian consul, and through the interrogation of the abducted American, the big picture of Uruguay (and other Latin America countries) is reported.

"État de Siege" is a testimony of the history of Latin America in the 70's, during my childhood and adolescence. All the democratic governments elected by people were discharged through coup d'état by military dictatorships supported by the American government, the police and military forces trained in tortures by American advisors, student and union leaderships destroyed and revolutionary groups unsuccessfully fighting against the dictatorial regime. The fantastic director Costa Gravas exposes this serious wound in Latin America and this denunciation shall never be forgotten by the next generations. This movie remains amazingly real and important, sometimes recalling a documentary. Only this month this film was released on DVD in Brazil, and it is a worthwhile investment. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): 'Estado de Sítio" ("State of Siege")
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9/10
An under exposed classic; better than 'Z'
jlr0072127 March 2001
What is most significant about this movie is how few have seen it. Only 66 people have voted on it here whereas over 700 have voted on Z, its counterpart and also a fine movie. 'State of Siege' follows the realities and deceptions concerning the CIA involvement in South America. The movie is uplifting and depressing, humorous and appalling. Viewers are forced to meander through contrasting elements deeply personal and highly political. I saw the film once when it was first released and have not been able to find it since, yet I remember virtually every scene. It would be wonderful to restore it to full circulation.
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8/10
How Dan Mitrione was killed
esteban174714 October 2003
This is not a fiction film. In fact, it reveals the way the guerrilla movement Tupamaros acted in Uruguay during the 70s. For those young people, it is necessary to remind that this left-wing movement was not a guerrilla in the mountains but an urban one, operating mainly in Montevideo. They used to kill esbirros (nasty policemen and agents) and to make justice against the existing dictatorship whenever it was required. The movement operated in a secret and compartmented way, i.e. many of the members did not know each other, thus avoiding to be eliminated by denunciation. Costa Gavras was able to draw the way Tupamaros acted in Uruguay, and also an important happening of those days, the way the CIA agent Mr. Dan Mitrione (Yves Montand) was killed. In fact this movement was disarticulated once new police agents infiltrated in the movement, and the main leaders were discovered. Mitrione was killed but this did not prevent that another CIA "pinch-hitter" for Mitrione came later to replace the dead man. The film may seem as sympathetic to Tupamaros, partially it might be, but this is rather a subtle critic to their methods than congratulation for what they did.
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9/10
A great film!
wombat-5618 March 2005
I agree that this film should be released on DVD. It is a great companion piece to Z and Missing.

Costa-Gavros managed to produce a stinging indictment of US involvement in South American politics, without drawing his villains as caricatures. His characters, policemen and revolutionaries, come off as profoundly human, flawed but not themselves monsters, though they are involved in monstrous acts. The torture scenes are grueling, and were probably as responsible for the film's official reception.

I saw this at the age of 15, when it was in the theaters. I confused it with the Eric Ambler novel of the same name. It had a profound personal influence on me. I was able to rent it once, about 15 years ago but haven't run across it since.
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10/10
Nostalgia and anticipation
jpmorex10 May 2002
In May, 2002 they are fulfilled 30 years of the beginning of the filming of this movie in several leases of Chile (Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso and Playa Ancha). It was in the second year of the socialistic government of the President Allende and the tension that is perceived in the movie was the one that already was living through the country a year before the military coup of 1973. The Chileans only we could see this movie 2001 and in an alone cinema-art in Santiago that exhibited it for two weeks. In May, 2002 the channel of French cable TV5 exhibited "State of Siege" four times, which has allowed a deeper critical review and to recognize a series of places of the Chile of 30 years ago, which already do not exist or which are now deeply modified. Besides the climate of the epoch there is perceived the precarious or simple car equipment that Chileans were having in that epoch in which the cars of luxury were the Dodge Dart Chrysler (assembled in the northern port of Arica) and the Peugeot 404 (assembled in Los Andes, 100 kms. from Santiago). The car of the well-off middle class was the Fiat 125 and en their juvenile sectors the ideal was a Mini Austin 850. In the installed middle class there were meeting old Renault 4S (the "renolas" o "renoletas"), VW beetles, Simca 1000 and principally the popular one Citroen 2CV, known like "citroneta" o "citrola". The movie allows to see brief the juvenile or young faces of approximately 30 actors, the majority today mature and well known and to wonder for the identities of others that probably retired, they did not come back from exile or were murdered or disappear during the dictatorship. In short an intelligent and nervous "thriller", in "Z" style, which showing the hard political reality of Uruguay between 1970 and 1972. The film allows a nostalgic look and indicative on the Chile that was on the way to disappear due the Coup d'Etat of 11 of september, 1973.
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10/10
The Films of Costa-Gavras: The State of Siege.
Captain_Couth18 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
State of Siege (1973) was another classic film from Greek film maker Costa-Gavras. This time the director turns his attention to Latin America. The C.I.A. is running things in South America, one of their fronts is a fake corporation. A group of left wing rebels decide to kidnap the head of A.I.D. Phillip Santore (Yves Montand). During his capture, the rebel leader talks to the captured government official and tries to learn why the C.I.A. is in Uruguay and why they're training the local police in brutal torture tactics. He never learns why they want to suppress left-wing politics because Mr. Santore has become expendable. The American and Uruguay officials don't want to deal with the "terrorists" and don't mind losing one of their own because he can always be replaced. Too bad the rebels don't learn that fact. The military crushes the rebels and to his word, the U.S. Government replaces Santore with another A.I.D. official.

Another great film from Costa-Gavras. He utilizes the film techniques that he used in Z and exploits them even further. This film caused even more controversy because the film was based on a true story. Bewarned, the torture techniques that the U.S. advisers teach the Uruguay officials are real graphic and gruesome. It's a shame that this movie has been neglected for so many years. But film makers like Oliver Stone were highly influenced by this movie. Maybe some day State of Siege will be restored and released on video. It's a real hard film to get a hold of.

Highest recommendation possible.
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10/10
a great snapshot of an urban revolution
grace_g22 August 2006
State of Siege is an exceptional account of how the Uruguayan underground revolution (Tupamaros) developed an extremely challenging resistance against both Uruguayan dictatorship and other parties such as USA and multi nationals who financed such dictatorship. The film describes in great detail the meticulous process used during the resistance, which in turn was adopted in other parts of Latin-America and Asia. Having lived in Uruguay during this time (1970s)i was amazed at the accuracy of the story and the ability by the story teller and the characters to convey a story/narrative that at the time of filming was very much a well hidden secret by both the establishment and its supporters, and the Tupamaros. Great research, and a great opportunity for those who are interested in Latin America political system as well as getting an effective snapshot of a time in history.
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10/10
One of the best political movies of all time.
raybanascoy-128 November 2006
This is Costa Gavra's finest film. Not only its message, and the brilliant actor's are world class. Also the cinematography, the script and the cut. Yves Montand's character is one of his strongest performances in his whole career. The whole cast is great. The guerrilla's as well as the secret police and the army generals. And of course the legend of German Cinema, O.E.Hasse as the intellectual journalist investigating the truths behind the kidnappings. State of Siege is probably not 100% objective but it shows the truth exactly. It's not speculative, naive or heroizing at all. a true intellectual film, but as exiting and riveting as a perfect Hollywood blockbuster. It's actually a quite cold blooded view at the history of that era. The story plays in an anonymous country in Latin America, and that's a great move by Costa Gavras because the events shown in the film did happen the same way not only in all countries of Latin America but also in many other countries all over the world. I had to leave Turkey after the coup d'etat in 1980 and I can tell you that the situation in Turkey then was exactly identical to the events that take place in this film. The dark atmosphere, the oppression and the violence are always the same. I watch this movie every time it's screened on German TV. And that's at least once a year. Z is another flawless masterpiece by Costa Gavras, and much more popular than State of Siege. But State of Siege has a melancholic atmosphere that I love so much. So it's not only a great experience for politically interested viewers. Also I want to mention that there's NO American movie in the same quality. and modern cinema is not able to produce such fantastic movies anymore.
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9/10
Costa Gavras does it again
matjusm26 October 2008
In what could be considered a follow up to his classic Z, Costa Gavras yet again tackles the political thriller genre with great mastery.

In Uruguay, an American with a somewhat vague and mysterious background but who is held in high esteem by the ruling powers is kidnapped. The kidnappers start interrogating him and through this backdrop, we are introduced to the struggles between leftist rebels and a right wing government in the Latin American country.

As I said before, the film is very similar to one of director Gavras's earlier efforts, Z. Like that film, this too depicts the struggle between two powers, one represented by a US-backed right wing government, the other a slightly leftist liberal resistance movement. Although the government is shown in a bad light here, neither side is overly demonized or depicted heroically. Instead, both have their motives which are ultimately quite noble so the viewer can identify with both. It is this tendency to show both sides of the story that makes Gavras a great storyteller and why both this and Z succeed so well.

Like in Z, Gavras likes to keep the camera at a distance giving us a good overview of events like for example riots in the street and how the police deal with them. The film also keeps away from unnecessary subplots and instead focuses on the story, just the way I like it. Music is used minimally and when it is used, it is effective, instead of having a constant background jingle.

If you liked Z, you will like this and if you like this, you will like Z. Or if you just like a good intelligent political thriller, this is the film for you.
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9/10
A film of historical importance
cineman22 September 2002
State of Siege shows how the U.S. aided and abetted right-wing dictatorships in Latin America during the Cold War. Yves Montand plays an American sent by our government to teach torture techniques to police in Uruguay. He is kidnapped by Tupamaro guerillas, interrogated and presented with proof of his activities. We witness how the military, the diplomats, and the press deal with the crisis. State of Siege generates a great deal of tension and suspense, even though we know the outcome. Director Costa-Gavras tends to romanticize the Left, but what is presented here is now widely acknowledged as fact. State of Siege is a film of historical importance that deserves your attention.
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8/10
historic
odisseyman7 October 2000
this movie lacks a bit of focus , but the photography , the music , the concise dialogues make it quite an experience , maybe the only thing that does not convince me is the fact that we see a French -speaking latin-american country , anyway anyone who wishes to know about what happened in almost all south america , will find a great movie. I would like to point the fact that this movies was censored for being very radical due its left-wing tendencies .
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"Z" in South America (SPOILERS!)
zardoz1229 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
A fictionalized account of the early 1970's kidnapping of Daniel Mitrione by the Uruguayan Tupamaro terrorist group, "State of Siege" is almost a mirror image of the director's previous film "Z." Mitrione (here called Phillip Michael Santore and played by Yves Montrand) is ostensibly working for USAID, but in reality - a reality uncovered for the viewer as the Tupamaros hold recorded interrogations - he trains the Uruguayan police and associated hangers-on how to torture suspects electrically, run death squads, and destroy the Tupamoros. Outside of the terrorist safehouse a newspaper reporter witnesses how the US government covers for Santore, the Uruguayan crackdown on dissent, and the aftermath. The repression is carried to rediculous extremes; the police storm the national univercity. As the police enter a courtyard, a PA speaker begins playing a revolutionary anthem. They quicky destroy it, when another speaker then blares out the anthem. That too is destroyed, and then another. Somewhere out of sight another squakbox begins playing the anthem, and the police rush off camera.

I call "Etat de siege" a mirror of "Z" because the picture takes place in flashback, the director is willing to hint where the picture is set at the beginning (the car which plays an important part has a Montevideo license plate), and the director is willing to say who is really backing the repression. Most importantly, however, is that the main character is the exact opposite of the politician in the previous film. Santore is willing to use midaeval means to keep South America an apolitical market for American goods and seller of raw materials for US industry, though he hides behind the banner of anticommunism. The politico in "Z" only wanted to keep Greece a non-nuclear power.
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9/10
'State of Siege' is an unrelenting look at something that took place in real-life during one of the most violent times in Uruguay.
bryank-0484411 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Criterion has picked one excellent film to add to its collection on Blu-ray. In 1972, director Costa-Gavras decided to make a movie based on the kidnapping of a Brazilian diplomat and two American US officials named Claude Fly and Dan Mitrione. It was widely covered in the news as Montevideo, Uruguay and a local guerilla militant group came to a head.

The guerilla group kidnapped these three people and threatened to kill them unless the government release all the political prisoners. Things didn't go so well and the country witnessed a lot of death and destruction before there was a conclusion. Interestingly enough, director Gosta-Gavras shot this film shortly after this incident in Chile with the support of Salvador Allende, and tells the story of what just happened in these turbulent times.

Yves Montand plays Philip Michael Santore (who is basically Mitrione) who is kidnapped by the guerilla group. The movie starts out on the big siege where police discover Santore's dead body. From here, we flashback to the incidents that lead up to this and why Santore was chosen to be kidnapped. Throughout all of the flashbacks that coincide with each other, director Gavras wanted to point out the differences in the social, political, and financial issues between the government, Santore, and his kidnappers.

He also shows us why the diabolical torture was used and forced on innocent people for testing. The film shifts from the Latin government and the rebels to the USA and Latin America and their differences once Santore's true identity is revealed. 'State of Siege' is fast paced and quite suspenseful, despite seeing Santore dead at the start of the film. Each debate and discussing in the film is filled with great tension as each side seems uneasy and on the brink of a total meltdown at any given moment.

One of the other reasons this movie is so good is that Gavras had a substantial budget this time around and was allowed to work with hundreds and hundreds of extras and actors to recreate the big siege. It is truly mesmerizing how he got all of these actors to perform under these chaotic conditions, and it definitely shows on film, which is purely terrifying at times.

'State of Siege' is an unrelenting look at something that took place in real-life during one of the most violent times in Uruguay. It's also quite beautiful, as Gavras used his cinematic eye to film almost every emotion from both sides on a large scale. This is one film that won't be soon forgotten.
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8/10
Historically accurate
paulscofield6814 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I learned of this movie by way of the book "Who Killed Bobby?" by Shane O'Sullivan- a book which strongly suggests that there was a conspiracy in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. On pages 413-414 of this book, he describes the OPS (Office of Public Safety) which was run by the CIA from 1962 to 1975. It's mission was to train US ally police forces and military officers to improve their effectiveness. During these years, the OPS trained 7,500 senior officers at it's US facilities- this is shown in the film 'State of Siege'- and more than half a million foreign police overseas. One of the central aims of the OPS was to train local officials to effectively deal with "terrorist" threats from the left (and subsequently keep in power/put in power forces on the right). Techniques in torture, assassination, and all the other 'dirty tricks' the CIA (at this time, at least) was famous for, were taught to conservative, right-wing allies in a total of 47 nations. In the case of a retired police chief from Richmond, Indiana- Dan Mitrione (played by Yves Montand in State of Siege)- he took things a bit too far- granted he had his hands full with the Tupamaros. According to O'Sullivan, Mitrione "built a soundproofed room in the cellar of his house (in Montevideo, Uruguay) and demonstrated torture techniques to selected Uruguayan police officers, using beggars taken off the street, some of whom died during the sessions." pg. 414. Mitrone was kidnapped on July 31st, 1970, and 10 days later his body was found in a car. "Mr. Mitrione's devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world will remain as an example for free men everywhere." said a White House press release, and Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis visited Richmond, IN to stage a benefit show. Meanwhile, back in Montevideo, the former chief of police intelligence, Alejandro Otero, "confirmed that Mitrione had used 'violent techniques of torture....and a psychology to create despair, such as playing a tape in the next room of women and children screaming and telling prisoners that it was his family being tortured.'" (p.414) These despicable facts are not presented in State of Siege, it should be noted. Otero was a CIA agent, and he spoke only because a close friend of his was a Tupamaros sympathizer...he was demoted for speaking out. This is a fine film and it's very understandable that it's extremely hard to find in the US. It's fair to say that 99% of Americans have no idea what the CIA was up to from 1962-1975...it would be more accurate to say CIA officers were up to because, from what I can tell, there were quite a few 'loose canons' in the CIA at that time...and some of them were willing to do whatever it took to fight political forces emerging from the left (including, of course, forces within the US). See one David Morales as such an example of a CIA loose canon (although it is very hard to get information on him, O'Sullivan says that Morales later went to Montevideo and "took his own murderous revenge on the Tupamaros". It's important to view State of Siege in it's proper historical context: sure you can talk about the cold war, but it's also about an institution infused with right-wing ideology (the CIA) hellbent on getting police and military forces in as many other allies prepared to defeat any leftist challenges to the status quo (ie. in the vast majority of cases, a conservative government). If a government fell into the hands of a leftist, then it had to be taken back for fear that it might fall into the Soviet sphere of influence. But in the end, we need to look at how conservative governments aid "big business" (see 'Missing' for more on this), because in the final analysis, it all comes down to who gets what...money. This film is to radically to the left and airs Americas dirty laundry too much...no wonder it's difficult to find...It's like "Punishment Park" by Peter Watkins. Fortunately now, in this internet age, we can get both films...go ogle 'rap id share (one wo rd) title of film 'etat de siege' and sub titles 'all subs' (one wo rd).
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7/10
Who is Mister Santori?
brogmiller4 July 2020
Yves Montand relinquished his membership of the Communist Party following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He became slightly more conservative with the years but never ceased to speak out against political corruption and social injustice. His working-class credentials of course gave his opinions greater credence. Having worked with Costa-Gavras on 'The Sleeping Car Murders' he gave his name and talents to that director's 'Dictatorship Trilogy', comprising 'Z', ' The Confession' and 'State of Siege'. Costa-Gavras maintained that Montand's choices were artistic rather than political. That may or may not be but there is no doubting that Montand's star status and charisma made these films more attractive commercially. Needless to say Montand is splendid and sympathetic in the role of Michael Santori whose character is based upon American counter-insurgency agent Dan Mitrione who was kidnapped, interrogated and executed by left-wing Tupamaro guerillas. At first he insists he is simply a 'technician' but is soon revealed to have played a much more sinister role and ends up declaring that whatever methods he employed were justified in order to defeat the enemies of civilisation. Good performances also from an unrecognisably young Jacques Weber as his interrogator, an unrecognisably middle-aged Renato Salvatori as a hard-nosed security chief and an instantly recognisable O. E. Hasse as a journalist who asks Government spokesmen too many embarassing questions. As a film this is probably the weakest of the three as it lacks a certain focus but the editing by Francoise Bonnot is as always exemplary and it holds one attention. Costa-Gavras has made the right call here by showing us Santori's corpse at the outset and by not showing his execution. IMDB is a forum for those who love Film and is not a platform from which to air ones political views so whether this film has a 'bias' is neither here nor there. What it does is to remind us of Jean Renoir's chilling observation: "Everyone has his reasons".
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8/10
Thrillers!
gavin694217 June 2015
In Uruguay in the early 1970s, an official of the US Agency for International Development (a group used as a front for training foreign police in counterinsurgency methods) is kidnapped by a group of urban guerrillas. Using his interrogation as a backdrop, the film explores the often brutal consequences of the struggle between Uruguay's government and the leftist Tupamaro guerrillas.

This film was so incredibly timely, it is a little amazing it was made, and somehow even almost ended up getting played at the Kennedy Center. Not only is it critical of the United States' role in South America (even if fictional names are used), but it was released right in the middle of it. We were still actively pushing regime change through the 1970s... (and the 1980s, though we moved north).
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Didactic but effective early career Gavras
tieman6417 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Before Oliver Stone there was Costa Gavras, another left leaning director who made his name directing politically charged thrillers. Released in 1972, "Stage of Siege" (along with Gavras' 1980 film, "Missing") would prove highly influential on Stone's own "Salvador".

Though it revolves around an incident in Uruguay, in which a US agent is kidnapped, interrogated and killed by guerrillas in Motevideo, the film merely uses this event as a scaffold to examine the geopolitical climate in South America during the Cold War. This was a time in which the US supported, covertly through the CIA, South American military dictatorships, often helping governments battle radicals and guerrillas whom their media spin-doctors branded as terrorists. The film spends much of its running time pointing out the various ways in which the US favours fascist figureheads over democratic ones, the former being far less concerned about their people's welfare and resources, and far more open to foreign business interests and blatant exploitation.

The film touches upon the West's use of torture, event sanitization, media spin-doctoring, illegal arrests, imprisonments without due process and the habitual use of death squads, actions which are sadly all still the norm today.

Aesthetically, the film is typical of Gavras' work during this period. Gavras utilises a semi documentary style, hitting us with press conferences, many legislative scenes, interrogations, interviews, paper trails, phone calls etc.

8/10 – Like Gillo Pontecorvo, a similar film-maker, Gavras' work during this period was hugely influential.
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8/10
Striking testimony
jbgeorges8 November 2020
Both political act and historical testimony, this magnificent film by Costa Gavras must be shown to the younger generations and even be part of history lessons! It is a real immersion in the fight between the far left activists of Tupamaros in Montevideo in the 1970s against an authoritarian and repressive state apparatus. Above all, it describes in detail the parallel structures set up by the American services under the disguise of assistance and without any legality, like death squadrons as they will be called in other Latin American countries. The methods are shown in all their brutality: violence, torture and arbitrary assassinations. The film's script is based on actual events, only the names have been changed. Yves Montand's performance is all the more impressive when you consider his political commitment against fascism and arbitrariness. Other excellent cast include Jacques Weber, Renato Salvatori and Jean-Luc Bideau.
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8/10
Filmmaking as investigative journalism
Criticalstaff8 July 2020
Costa-Gavras' movies are often the best examples of how art can be used to educate the audience. And, State of Siege is certainly one of the most ambitious and focused attempts.

The movie is a careful presentation, an expose, on the methods and procedures of law enforcement and state police in Latin America. Furthermore, it paints the picture of a kind of American neo-imperialism or neo-colonialism.

The movie is bold, the movie is courageous, but most of all it is smart and intelligent. That being said the strength of the film is the attention of detail and it's patience. Every situation is set up and for everything, there is a payoff. Nobody does films likes this nowadays, with hundreds of extras, everything shot on location. This is one extreme form of filmmaking, where there is the least amount of shortcuts and trickery. The movie almost feels like a film version of the Grand Reportage of old. A careful mix of investigation and photojournalism. That is why you do not mind being lectured. Because the film is beautiful and has rich texture, you do not mind sitting through police violence, death squad meetings and political corruption. The text of the movie might be heavy but is balanced by the visual style.

It may be at times too smart: some of the scenes may be too wordy and whenever there is action, it is subordinate to the dialog between characters. There is a lot of expository dialog in this film, and usually this a fault, because it goes against "show don't tell". Yet, here it does not harm the argument. The way the situation is laid out in dialog between Santore and his captors is initially dry and infuriating, but as Santore perception shifts it becomes engaging. The other channel of exposition is the reporter who is merely covering the story from the outside. It almost feels as it is the most interesting part of the film given that Santore's plot is rather stale, he gets kidnapped and they talk about it for an hour. The political plot could have been the meat of the movie but unfortunately, it does not go far enough, it is treated as B-plot. However, it still functions for its political themes. My favorite scene is the sequence where all the government ministers climb out of their cars. That is cinema in its purest form. It is complete fiction but it feels real.

You can regret that the movie is not as strong narratively. There is no a lot of action, in terms of narrative. Nothing happens in the course of the movie, only minor events. The story should be the last days of Phillip Michael Santore, but it is not what the movie is about.

For that reason it does not stand at the top of Costa-Gavras' oeuvre. On the topic of government corruption and the police and fascism love story, Gravas' "Z" is the best.
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9/10
A Step Above "Z"
johcafra2 February 2007
A superior film in every way. I last viewed it Stateside, dubbed into English, on a public-television broadcast perhaps 25 years ago. It appears available on VHS at collectors' prices, but I'd very much prefer to see it treated on DVD as was lately done to "Z," remastered, subtitled, and with as many bonus features as possible.

You may recognize more of Costa-Gavras's stock players besides Yves Montand. One noticeable stylistic difference: Given the grimness of its scenario "Z" occasionally bemuses, but State of Siege does not, even when Theodorakis's theme song tries to distract you.

This said, for its narrative style and documentary look, is State of Siege a representation of a true story or merely "based upon"? At least this American chooses not to judge without having the unalloyed facts arrayed before him. The film did succeed in the sense that it made me want to learn more about its subject.

The long out-of-print companion book contains Solinas's screenplay, stills from the film, a statement by Montand, and supplemental published materials presumably used in research with an extensive bibliography. Perhaps its most revealing component is the transcribed interview by Nicholas Ray of Solinas and Costa-Gavras, which mentions among other things tape recordings of the captive on whom Montand's character is based. Yet it is Costa-Gavras' final statement on the choice of filming location that is at once funny, sad and chilling in hindsight, and provides ample proof that times change.
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10/10
Torture American style
jakob131 November 2015
Forty-three years after its release 'Sate of Siege' has not lost its bite.Uruguay has moved on his the days of the 'Tupermaros, an urban guerrilla group, who opposed the 'democratic' government in Montevideo, supported by the US government sponsored terrorist training of the military and the policy. Yves Montand is Philip Michael Santore, a police man from Chicago, who is sent under the cover of the Agency for International Development, in the hot spots of Latin America in the 1960s and early 70s, to beef up the armed forces and police in Santo Domingo, Brazil and Uruguay. In reality, Santore teaches torture--electric shock, water boarding, black sites and the like, to combat as he says Communists and rescue Christian civilization from left-wing radicals in opposition to authoritarian rule. We didn't need to await George W Bush for the US to fight 'terrorism', since the measures of torture and coercion were already in place. And are still taught today in the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security (once known as the School of the Americas). The name has changed but not the mission. The deft hand of Costa-Garvas advances the narrative; it is a matter-of-fact rendering of a kidnapping; it has that telegraphic style of reporting, with communiques issued daily on the state of health of the kidnapped three (a Brazilian diplomat, Santore and another American working under cover at the US embassy). And then, there are the demands: you release our comrades and allow them to seek asylum in a third country. But the government doesn't budge. It--surprise--is unaware that the likes of Santore is in the country, doing his training in torture...wink, wink. Questions are raised in parliament by the left and center parties, but they are ignored by denial. The Nixon administration wouldn't rescue Santore by pressuring Montevideo to meet the Tupamaros demands. At the same time, the chief of police, played by the underrated Renato Salvatore, undertake to find the guerrillas and put them out of action or make them disappeared. The music by Theodakis sustains the tension. In the end Santore's body is found in the boot of an automobile. The film opens with a funeral mass in the Cathedral, and from there, in a long flashback...the story of Santore is told. He is replaced, but at the airport as the new 'AID' man descends with wife and two children, a Tupamaro watches...for no matter how many urban guerilla had been rounded up torture, killed or...the network has survived. Costa-Garva's camera is records: he has used it effectively in 'Z' as he did in 'State of Siege'. Although times have changed, not so America's repressive methods as the world's policeman. Somewhat weakened by the phony Bush war in Korea and the stupidity of Libya and idiocy in Syria, let alone the quagmire in Afghanistan. 'State of Siege' ends on a confident tone since the US is still losing in Vietnam. And Brazil and Uruguay is a panel in Che Guevara's call for one, two or Vietnam to challenge American imperialism. On one hand, the film is a chapter in history; on the other, it is powerful recall that little has changed in the nature of US imperial pretensions.
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9/10
The Life of American Saint Philip Michael Santore
Eumenides_010 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
As the movie opens, Uruguay is in an uproar. Thousands of policemen and soldiers scour the city; road blocks are instituted; vehicles and people are being searched. High-ranking officers and politicians eagerly wait news. Then a policeman finds a dead man inside a car: it's Philip Michael Santore, an American citizen, an innocent man kidnapped by the brutal terrorists Tupamaros. The Uruguayan state holds a state funeral for this victim. Such an innocent man couldn't deserve less.

And then we flashback to the day the Tupamaros organize the kidnapping. It's done with military precision, Santore is hidden in a basement and an interrogation starts. And we discover the dirty truth about Philip Michael Santore, an American agent given the mission of touring Latin America training death squads, teaching local police forces brutal torture techniques, and supporting dictatorships, in the noble quest against communism, the great American paranoia.

State of Siege is a fascinating document about Latin American history, showing the complicity between the United States and repressive regimes, the way these supposedly sovereign states belittled themselves to serve foreign interests, and the techniques they used to maintain power. Santore's façade as a benevolent foreigner who comes to Uruguay with the mission of bringing development is slowly undermined by the Tupamaros' interrogation which, backed up with facts and without torture, prove his involvement in dozens of crimes against humanity.

This is a great political thriller, written and shot with talent. Franco Solinas, a screenwriter who wasn't a stranger to political movies (Queimada!, The Battle of Algiers), adapts the life of Dan Mitrione into a satisfying fictional story, whereas Costa-Gavras shows his ability to make fast-paced sequences without needing elaborate action or violence. He's one of the masters of montages and his craft is on full display here.

On the same level as Z, State of Siege, it shows a dark episode in the history of Latin America and is also an uncompromising indictment of American foreign policy. People who accuse Costa-Gavras of anti-Americanism, need to read up on history to see how faithful the facts of this movie are. He merely shows the truth, it's not his fault the truth doesn't fit with the mainstream image the USA have succeeded in creating about themselves.

We need more filmmakers like Costa-Gavras.
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3/10
Great presentation but politically biased
BigCityMonk6 November 2009
Another great movie by Costa-Gavras. It's a great presentation of the situation is Latin America and the US involvement in Latin American politics. The facts might or might not be accurate but it is a fact that the US was deeply involved in coups and support of Latin American dictatorships.

Despite this though the spirit of the movie follows the typical leftist/communist propaganda of the Cold War era. Costa-Gavras is a well-known communist sympathizer and his movies are always biased. For example he presents the US actions as brutal and inhumane, while representing Tupamaros' extremist activities as something positive.

As it turned out it was a blessing for Uruguay and the rest of the Latin America that the US got involved. Europe is filled with poor East European prostitutes. I never heard of poor Uruguayan or Chilean girls prostituting themselves en masse as it happens in most East European countries. The US was fighting a dirty war and god bless us all the monster of Soviet Communism was defeated. It is unfortunate the US had to do what it did in Latin America (and elsewhere) but sometimes you need to play dirty. This is not an idealistic world as Costa-Gavras and Matamoros like to believe. Had Matamoros come to power in Uruguay, we would've had another Ukraine in Latin America.

All in all this movie follows corrupt and bankrupt leftist ideology of times past and tries to pass it as idealistic and morally correct.
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A so recognizable film of Costa Gavras...
searchanddestroy-126 February 2016
Yes, a Costa Gavras movie is always recognizable, as a Yves Boisset one, the ONLY two French directors who dared speaking of political actual facts which other directors were afraid to talk about. In France, it's not like in America, where film makers are free to speak of everything, see for instance ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN or EXECUTIVE ACTION, speaking of Watergate file or JFK assassination...In France, if you except Yves Boisset or Costa Gavras, no one, even today, would dare to speak of this. OK, I admit that Costa Gavras, in this film, doesn't talk of French events, nor as he did for Z, but when he made UN HOMME DE TROP or SECTION SPECIALE, that was directly related to French history. The Costa Gavras scheme is here the same as in Z. He uses an event to emphasize the political dimension just afterwards. Even in using a thriller topic, see Z for instance...I would have loved seeing Costa Gavras directing a film about war in Algeria and OAS organization. I don't think he did. I won't repeat what the other users told about this one, but I repeat, you deal here with a typical Costa Gavras' feature, which I could tell the director's name without seeing the opening credits.
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