Assignment, The/B,B+

Columbia/1997/119m/ANA 1.85,PS.1.33

         While it may not succeed on all counts, The Assignment is a very pleasant surprise. With it's beautifully photographed opening sequences, the filmmakers may create too much anticipation for the look of the film When the film sets its action in motion, the pacing is rapid, but during the extended training session, the plotting is slow going and frequently as thick as porridge.
     One of the nicest aspects of The Assignment is its ability to surprise.  Not fool, but surprise. I don't think it ever cheats in this device and the pay-offs are thoroughly satisfying. In a way the director is weaving his own spider web in which to catch viewers.  assignment.jpg (5703 bytes)
     While on shore leave in Israel, US Naval Officer Annibal Ramirez is mistaken for International terrorist Carlos the Jackal. Ramirez is  into custody and brutally interrogated by Israeli Intelligence. When the truth about his identity is revealed, CIA operative Jack Shaw sees an opportunity to lay a trap to take down the notorious Jackal. While the family man Ramirez is reluctant to agree to Shaw's pleas for help, Shaw is unrelenting and before he knows it Ramirez is swept into a harrowing and often hard-to-believe regimen of training and indoctrination.
          Aidan Quinn, certainly not known for action roles, acquits himself very nciely in the dual roles of Carlos The Jackal and Navy officer Annibal Ramirez. When Ramirez is impersonating The Jackal, Quinn manages to inject an ambivalence about his own person which works very well within the story structure. Donald Sutherland has a meaty role as CIA agent Jack Shaw, but he chews up the scenery a bit much. It's more a function of the writing than the performance since Shaw's character is very one-dimensional. Ben Kingsley seems out of place as the Israeli intelligence agent.
     There's a slight unevenness to the film elements that leaves the DVD wanting some extra punch. Still, it's very clean and sharp and apart from a bit of minor grain in some scenes, there are no obvious criticisms. The Dolby 5:1 Digital sound is very dynamic with powerful explosions and bedroom details equally alive.


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