Starring: Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, James Mason
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Running Time: 125 mins
The Boys From Brazil is an American film about an aging Nazi hunter who uncovers a sinister plot in South America to rekindle the Third Reich.
It may not operate in the same realm of reality as the rest of us, but that doesn’t mean that The Boys From Brazil isn’t a captivating and entertaining watch throughout. With a bizarre story from beginning to end, the film works wonders with a well-written screenplay and exciting ideas plucked from conspiracy theories of the public consciousness, furthered by some great performances (albeit with a few dodgy German accents), and a plot so ridiculous that you can’t help but sit back and enjoy every minute.
Let’s start off with that plot, because you can’t really believe how insane everything gets. Of course, to reveal the most preposterous ideas of all would be to spoil the entertainment of the whole film, but the fact remains that The Boys From Brazil works so well simply because it takes a crazy story, and brings it to life with a fantastic screenplay, building mystery and tension throughout, and making for a both massively enjoyable and equally riveting watch.
Centring on a so-called ‘Nazi hunter’ following a trail of events from a secret Nazi hideout in Paraguay, the film goes all out with all of the best Nazi conspiracies you can imagine. However, what makes the story riveting is the fact that it masquerades as a real-life, serious mystery thriller, and thanks to a very strong screenplay that will keep you guessing from start to finish (in a world like this, any kind of twist is completely possible!), you’ll be enthralled no matter how strange things may seem.
Another reason that the film works is because of the performances. Laurence Olivier is good and likable as the protagonist Nazi hunter, bringing an old school charm and wit to proceedings as an old man who still aims to take on the might of the last of the Third Reich, but the star of the show has to be Gregory Peck.
You know, the same endlessly charismatic and charming Gregory Peck who made your heart sing in the likes of Roman Holiday and To Kill A Mockingbird. Well, in a complete switch of type, he plays notoriously evil and diabolical Nazi scientist Josef Mengele, and does an incredible job. With the exception of his sometimes wobbly accent, Peck’s confidence and domineering presence brings a real sense of danger and power onto the screen whenever he appears, making Mengele (in a story full of ridiculous silliness) a genuinely unnerving and arguably even frightening character throughout, which I was really impressed by.
Of course, as entertaining and often engrossing this film is, it’s not without its flaw. Above all, the heightened and often ridiculous plot twists (as fun as they may be) do have an impact on how seriously you can take the film. Fortunately, the riveting screenplay means that the story is interesting enough to mitigate such issues, but there are times when you’re not entirely sure how much the film wants you to take its premise as if it were real, creating an occasionally awkward clash between the drama and the lighter entertainment factor.
Overall, however, I had a great time with The Boys From Brazil. It may tell one of the craziest and most outlandish stories Hollywood has ever seen, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not both massively entertaining and genuinely riveting throughout, thanks to a well-written, mysterious screenplay and some great performances, which is why I’m giving it a 7.6.