Elliott Nearly Saves Hitler…Bigfoot
The movie to beat for best film title of the year, Robert Krzykowski’s The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, is a somber, pulp tale of a man left behind, a veteran whose deeds have gone unsung, unknown by the public he sacrificed so much to save. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as fun as its title suggests, which works against it, yet provides more than a few surprises where its plot and theme are concerned. Of course, having Sam Elliott in the title role helps make anything watchable, even when your patience is taxed to the limit.
Taking place in the late 1970’s, Calvin Barr (Elliott) lives a solitary life, the companionship of his faithful dog helping get him through the day. However, things have been disrupted as of late due to recurring memories and a nightmare or two. His past deeds and regrets have come back to haunt him, feelings of guilt filling his days rather than pleasant reveries. His relationship with his fiancé Maxine (Caitlin Fitzgerald) was collateral damage thanks to a secret mission he was sent on – to kill Adolph Hitler. He was successful in this – a Nazi cover-up kept this under wraps- and Barr continued to pay the price for his service, having to go into hiding. Now, after having been ignored for years, the government comes knocking on his door once more. They need him to kill Bigfoot, who happens to be a carrier of a rare plague that’s quietly sweeping through the Canadian wilderness. His past deeds gives him the necessary experience, while his rare blood type makes him immune to this disease.
Yeah, it’s pretty silly stuff but Elliott, the cast and Krzykowski play it straight, approaching the material with a seriousness that leaves no room for parody. It’s a risky tactic but for the most part it pays off, thanks in large part to Elliott’s sincere performance. His ability to convey Barr’s strength and vulnerability provides a strong foundation for the film, his sense of sincerity making it easy for us to sympathize with this walking anachronism, a man with no purpose in a world he doesn’t understand. That he ultimately realizes he has more in common with the diseased sasquatch he’s hunting, effectively drives this point home with unexpected power.
Bolstering this sense of poignancy are flashbacks in which we witness the courtship between the younger Barr (Aidan Turner) and school teacher Maxine. Their interactions are sweet, natural and unforced, while the crisp, 1940’s period details effectively tap into the audience’s sense of nostalgia, adding a romantic tinge to the entire affair.
The film’s biggest flaw lies in its pacing. Directing his first feature film, Krzykowski struggles with the speed in which he tells his story as well as the manner in which he reveals key plot points. Understandably, he wants to hold his cards close to his vest regarding his hero’s background, but that reveal comes far too late, taxing the audience’s patience to the breaking point. The director’s frequent use of flashbacks – as effective as they are – also prevents the movie from building a narrative head of steam. In the end, the film suffers from not diving headlong into its secrets and unique premise.
Without question, the movie’s third act, once it finally arrives, fires on all cylinders and delivers an effective moral concerning the compromises we make and the unforeseen ramifications they have. In the end, Barr stays true to his moral compass but the price he pays proves far too high.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot is available through Video on Demand services. (VOD)