1986. In his civilian clothes while on shore leave in Jerusalem, Lieutenant Commander Annibal Ramirez of the US Navy is captured and interrogated by who he eventually learns is Mossad in a case of mistaken identity. Because of the resemblance, they believed him to be Carlos the Jackal, one of if not the most wanted and dangerous terrorist in the world. Shortly following, Henry Fields, using the alias Jack Shaw, he the Paris deputy chief of CIA counter-terrorism whose primary mission for at least the past ten years has been to get rid of Carlos in any way possible, tries to recruit Ramirez to work on a covert CIA-Mossad operation to stop Carlos' terrorist activities with the ultimate goal of Carlos' capture or death. The plan is for Ramirez to impersonate Carlos, in the process discrediting Carlos in the eyes of his current KGB backers, and thus effectively ending his career as a terrorist, with nowhere he can longer hide. After an initial reluctance on Ramirez's part, Shaw is able to ...Written by
After Ramirez dives through the window to escape from the
French secret service, he gets up and runs off unarmed. Suddenly he has a gun to shoot a French agent in the head. See more »
When you look in the mirror, I don't want you to find Annibal Ramirez; find Carlos. Because if you find Carlos that's what everyone else will find too. And if you find Carlos and anything goes wrong, he's the only one who can get you out of it, because he's the best at what he does.
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Who is Jason Bourne? It's very likely his real name was Annibal Ramirez.
This is my favorite terrorist thriller of all time. "The Assignment" had the essential plot of "The Bourne Identity" (the book by Robert Ludlum, not the movie starring Matt Damon) and the themes "Face/Off" only touched on.
THE SCRIPT--this movie was co-written by a former agent with the Israeli Mossad (Israel's version of the CIA), so "The Assignment" had an aura of realism that most Hollywood thrillers lack. This movie showed a dark world of twisted intrigue most of us knows exists but never see. I admit, the look-alike premise was contrived. But the plan to get Carlos was old-school counter-espionage at its best.
THE ACTING--this movie was well-acted all-around. Aidan Quinn was great, both as the tortured hero and the badass villain. Donald Sutherland was also top-notch as the CIA agent obsessed with catching Carlos the Jackal. Ben Kingsley shines as always, this time as an utterly cool, professional Mossad agent.
THE DIRECTING--very well-shot, with interesting camera angles that enhanced the story, not just used to show off the director's talent. Good use of locations. I really felt like I had been to Europe and the Middle East.
THE OPENING SEQUENCE--easily one of the most attention-grabbing opening sequences I've seen in a long time. There's a dazzling sustained steadicam shot, then a scene of such brutal terrorism it's easy to see why CIA agent Jack Shaw becomes bent on destroying Carlos the Jackal.
THE TRAINING SCENES--I've seen tons of action movies. This was one of rare few that took the time to explain in a compelling way how the good guy learns the skills he uses to beat the bad guy. These scenes were already plenty tense, but the psychological angle of going into the mind of a terrorist took it to the next level. I also recommend watching this movie, then watching "The Bourne Identity" starring Matt Damon. The training scenes in "The Assignment" explain how Jason Bourne probably learned to be an assassin.
THE ACTION SCENES--they were all fantastic, real yet stylish at the same time. However, don't expect another "Face/Off" or "The Rock." Unlike most Hollywood blockbusters, "The Assignment" is driven by intelligence and suspense, not spectacular set pieces. But even if the action scenes sucked (which they don't) they would still be gripping because of the engrossing story.
THE THEMES--the themes made this, already a good movie, a great one. "The Assignment" deals with identity, integrity (how bad are you willing to be to do the right thing?), and of how evil infects everything it touches.
THE CLIMAX--this was what disappointed me the most. After taking all that time to carefully build up the hero and villain, their final confrontation felt too rushed and too predictable.
CARLOS THE JACKAL--he didn't get enough screen time! He was so cool and badass, I wanted to see more!
THE SEXUAL CONTENT--actually I thought this was a good thing, because that damnable PG-13 rating makes it seem like people in movies don't have sex. Just so they can pack more teenagers into theaters. "The Assignment" contains a good share of sex scenes, the most intense being the one Annibal had with an ex-girlfriend of the Jackal. All purely to advance his training, of course. That actress was dynamite!
OVERALL: "The Assignment" is a first-class thriller the likes of which we won't see again very soon. Too bad it was overshadowed by bigger-budgeted, lower-quality terrorist flicks like "The Peacemaker" and "The Jackal."
SCORE: 9.0 out of 10
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