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Blu-ray & DVD Review
Lawrence Dell, a renegade idealistic former American general, breaks out of prison with two companions. The trio take over a nuclear missile base and threaten to launch them unless the President admits that the American people were lied to about the real reason for the Vietnam War...
Twilights Last Gleaming (1977. 2 hr, 24 min, 18 sec) is a political thriller directed by Robert Aldrich. Although Aldrich had had a successful career as a Hollywood director, with such films as The Dirty Dozen (1967) and The Killing of Sister George (1968), Twilight represented one of his last and arguably his best film. The film has undergone restoration for the Blu-ray and it looks impressive for so old a film.
The film has an impressive cast with Burt Lancaster taking the lead role of Dell and he is able to imbue his character with the right balance of patriotism and fanaticism which goes to the heart of the story. Dell is willing to push his old boss, General Mac Kenzie (Richard Widmark),to the limit to get to the President (Charles Durning) to expose the political manipulations of the industrial war machine which is pulling the countries strings from the shadows.
The film deftly examines how the visible power, as represented by the President, is often the one with the least power. After Dell makes his demands, for the President to disclose the minutes of the National Security Council, Aldrich is able to show how the competing interests within the Whitehouse limits the President’s power and response.
What plays out is how far Dell is willing to go to uncover the truth about why America fought the Vietnam War. Lancaster nearly convinces as a man willing to start World War Three to regain the credibility which he feels the government has lost. Likewise, Durning, as a well-intentioned President often falters, both in the face of the truth and in his desire to stop Dell.
Aldrich’s direction keeps the pace taut, often with the use of split screen to show action in up to three locations at once. It's not something you see a lot of today, but the ability to see the action from more than one perspective work well in the context of the film.
If there is a problem with the film it is in the passage of time. It may have been, in the late seventies, an appalling thought that a major country would be willing to engage in pointless mini wars just to show their opponents that they can be harsh, unfortunately the twenty-first century has been marred with many such wars.
The disc contains a substantial making of feature (1 hr, 9 min, 04 sec) which covers everything you might need to know about the film.
While essentially the film works well, I’m not sure that I could follow the muddled logic of Dell, that to expose a truth about the deaths of tens of thousands you would be willing to needlessly murder millions.
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