Eggbeater

Costa-Gavras’ obscure second film, SHOCK TROOPS, aka UN HOMME DE TROP (a better and more fitting title), a big-budget Harry Saltzman production, is one he’s often kind of disparaged and that nobody else seems to talk about.

While it has some ingrained issues in terms of what it is and what it can do, it delivers what it CAN do outstandingly — it’s an astonishing action film with more depth than most. I’m going to write about it substantially, I think, and rewatch it immediately if I can find time.

Right now all I can find time for is discussion of one helicopter shot which, like several sequences in the film, took my breath away.

Our heroic resistance fighters are fleeing in an overcrowded truck along a mountain road. The camera, aloft, follows them, then starts to drift down the mountainside —

UH-OH. Nazis. A scary abundance of Nazis, in trucks and armoured vehicles of their own, on a parallel road. We keep rising and rising so we can see just what a terrifying and overwhelming number of them there are. It’s a Butch and Sundance moment.

But, you know, things can always get worse. The camera rises further and tilts back up to reveal that the resistance truck and the Nazis are not on parallel roads but on CONVERGING ones. Ulp.

And OH SHIT, as we continue flying left-to-right, then arc over the mountain and pan back, we see before anybody else does (dramatic irony!) that the roads are not merely going to converge in a fork, they are in fact THE SAME ROAD, with a U-turn that is going to give everyone concerned an unpleasant surprise.

But this is NOT the end of the movie. Costa-Gavras has a gasp of relief prepared for us. I mention that because you were looking a little nervous.

Incredible shot! Not only for its bravura sweep, but for what it does narratively, and to our emotions.

More on this stonker soon.

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