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on June 16, 2004
The year is the world is reeling from the assassination of President Kennedy, Egypt has missiles posed to annihilate Israel. The only thing preventing this is the lack of guidance technology to properly target the missiles, which Egypt is on the verge of obtaining with assistance from a group of Germans, once officers within the SS during World War II, now members of a group called Odessa, a clandestine organization designed to assist ex-German military personal gain new identities and lives, thereby avoiding capture, after the end of the war.
The Odessa File (1974) takes the popular Frederick Forsyth novel of the same name, which is supposedly based on actual facts and events, and presents it as a truly wonderful, tense thriller that I really enjoyed. Directed by accomplished cinematographer and director Ronald Neame, the film stars Jon Voight as freelance German journalist Peter Miller and Maximilian Schell as an ex-German officer named Eduard Roschmann, a man responsible for horrible atrocities, earning him the nickname 'The Butcher', during his tenure as head of a concentration camp which housed Jewish prisoners. After the passing of an elderly Jewish survivor of a WWII concentration camp, Miller comes into possession of a diary kept by the man, one which detailed, in particular, the various crimes against humanity by Roschmann, and also seemed to indicate that the war criminal may still be alive. As Miller begins delving into the story, uncovering tidbits of information, he meets resistance in the form of various individuals, many of which turn out to be members of the secret Odessa organization, and are now actively working against Miller for fears that he may uncover their secrets.
As Miller gets closer to uncovering the truths, the resistance against him grows, and takes the form of actual attempts on his life. Around this time he comes into contact with a Jewish group, working to locate the site within Germany that's developing the guidance system for the Egyptian rockets, and Miller agrees to work with them, changing his identity in order to become an ex-German officer and enable him access to the Odessa organization. In exchange for this, Miller will supply the group with information, while he himself tries to get closer to Roschmann. As Miller infiltrates the group, his cover is eventually blown, but not before he learns of the existence of the Odessa file, documents that detail many of the members within the group, including Roschmann. The goal now is survival, and given the circumstances, his chances seem pretty slim.
I have not actually read the book, but I really liked this film. Jon Voight is wonderful and believable, German accent and all, as a reporter, seemingly driven by a determination to expose a subversive hideousness, once prominent in his country, that has now gone underground, and threatens yet again a great many peoples of the world. Listed as a thriller/drama, The Odessa File certainly doesn't disappoint. The plot, while having many twists and turns, keeps focused, and rarely falters in its' progression. The development of the characters is carefully planned, but not so to bring attention to the fact, allowing for the viewer to become drawn into the film. The exposition at the beginning was a little awkward to me, but I didn't see any other way around it, so I accepted it. Schell provides an excellent performance as an ex-German officer hiding in broad daylight, one who will resort to any means necessary to protect his secrets, along with those of the Odessa group. One point I enjoyed was near the end, as a particular revelation was made. Prior to that point, I had started to question one of the main character's motivations, and, as if the film knew what I was thinking, it answered my question in a completely satisfying manner. The film runs just over two hours, and the first half may seem slow, but I felt as if this was deliberate, allowing time for the story to develop. During the second half the film picks up speed as the tension mounts, drawing on the momentum carefully constructed in the beginning, resulting in a wholly enjoyable conclusion. Given the nature of realizing novels to film, I suspect a number of plot elements were left out, but what was left seemed to be missing very little, at least anything that left a glaring hole which would pull the viewer out of the movie with its' obviousness, which indicates a skillful adaptation of original source material, done with care to preserve the elements which made the book so very popular and well received. All in all, this is a really thrilling outing, one that requires a little patience, but provides a rewarding experience overall.
Presented on this release are really good looking prints, both in wide screen and full screen formats (it's double-sided). The audio seems a bit soft, but there are English subtitles, so I missed nothing. As far as special features, there are some well put together production notes in a four page booklet within the DVD case, an original theatrical trailer, talent biographies for actors Voight, Schell, and director Neame, and trailers for Anaconda (1997) and Oliver Stone's U-Turn (1997), neither film as good as this one, but both certainly benefiting from Voight's appearance...and that's another thing...remember when Jon Voight appeared in good films? Along with this film, I also count Midnight Cowboy (1969), Catch-22 (1970), Deliverance (1972), and Runaway Train (1985) to be some real highlights of his career...and let's look at some of his more recent films...Most Wanted (1997), The Karate Dog (2004), and Baby Geniuses 2 (2004)...not exactly the caliber of films early in his career, but who knows what the future holds?
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on October 27, 2003
The book is better (it usually is) but the movie stays true to it and is a pretty decent one overall. Absolutely nothing fancy about it; no exotic sets and no dazzling special effects or stunts. This isn't an action movie, so there's not any real action sequences either. What it is is a suspense tale, a story of one man's quest for the truth. A nice blend of history and current events, which derives from the book the movie is based on; its author, Frederick Forsyth, is one of the best storytellers around. If you like the movie, you'll definitely enjoy his books.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon April 18, 2004
I am glad I did not read the book first as this film has to tell the story minus many of the sub plots. However there are enough left to keep you well off balance. If it is your first time through the movie some of the plots are evasive.
It is definitely a Forsyth story with a good mixture of fact, myth, and plausibility. Well it could happen. The film is permeated with rising action; in several places you have no time to catch your breath. You will find your self kibitzing as "Don't make that phone call!"
The story was best told with black and white flashbacks to explain what happened in history to support today's (1974) action.
Reporter, Peter Miller comes in possession of a diary of a man that survived Riga concentration camp. Something he reads encourages him to seek SS Captain Eduard Roschmann, the commandant of the camp, who was presumed dead. In his endeavor he is thwarted at every turn by the authorities. Finally one posing as a doctor confirms Roshmann's existence by his very insistent that Roschmann is dead.
In the beginning we hear of President Kennedy's death which triggers the end of innocents. This combined with the overlapping plot of the Egyptians to build missiles, overlays Peter's personal pursuit with that of a Jewish organization attempting to infiltrate the Odessa (Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen),an organization to reorganize and protect prominent people that where in the "National Socialist German Workers' Party".
Will Peter succeed with his mission (what ever it is) or will he be hindered by the Jewish organization? Will the organization succeed in thwarting the Egyptian missile plot or be hindered by Peter? Is SS Captain Roschmann still alive and if so what is he up to.
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on March 7, 2004
This was the second of the two Frederick Forsyth classic thrillers set in recent history. Forsyth had a wonderful talent for setting taut detective stories in what-if scenarios. Here he connects the secretive Odessa unit, dedicated to protecting former SS soldiers, with a plot to drop onto Israel WMDs loaded with bubonic plague, around 1963/64. Sadly little is made of this second element -- a pro-Israeli secret service unit features strongly in the film, but it seems to have no awareness of the threat that Kiefel Industries and Egpyt's Nasser pose to Israel.
This is a great detective story, but there is little action, no sex and almost no humour. Many would argue that one should not expect these elements in a plot set against the historical background of the Holocaust. Nearly all the Germans are heavy stereotypes -- humourless, cold, threatening, and occasionally explosive.
This DVD is definitely worth watching every 10 years or so, but I cannot say that it rewards more frequently repeated viewing.
The score, such as it is, reveals Andrew Lloyd Webber in his jazz-rock phase between 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Variations'. Jon Voight does a great job as the sincere protagonist freelance journalist. Perhaps the big winner from this movie was Derek Jacobi, playing the troubled printer of false papers for the Odessa. He demonstrated that, with a couple of orange eyebrows stuck on, he could become a totally different personality -- ideal preparation for his masterful role in BBC's I CLAUDIUS a couple of years later.
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on November 3, 2000
This is a very good movie that will get the viewer on the edge of their seat as the tale of a man who is out to get justice against the ODESSA who are former SS soldiers hiding out after World War II. Jon Voigt portrays a German who infiltrates the highly secretive and guarded ODESSA with help from the Israeli's, who's ultimate goal is to capture a former high ranking SS officer portrayed by Maximillian Schell and get a full list of ODESSA members.
What makes this movie a cut above the average suspense style of movie is the superior acting by the lead characters. They are believeable and draw the viewer in for more. An excellent plot adapted from a novel by Frederick Forsythe has twists and turns at every corner, and finally the reason why Voigt is on the mission to either kill or kidnap Schell for the Israeli's is answered at the end.
This is highly recommended to all movie fans who enjoy an excellent suspensful plot and great acting from all the lead characters in this movie.
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on May 26, 2001
This is what good espionage movies are all about; a strong basis for the story line (elements of reality), a simple objective, and an intriguing plot. Lately I've been thinking that some of the best espionage movies of all time were made in the 70's; perhaps this has something to do with the turbulent 60's when there was so much going on (i.e. assasinations, controversial issues, conspiracy theories, etc).
While the movie is not as good as "The Day of the Jackel" in my opinion, it still ranks very high on my list of films of this type. Anyone skeptical about the quality of spy films made in the 70's, just rent (or buy) this picture and rent something that was made in the nineties (something like a James Bond flick or Mission Impossible). Then see if you don't find a big difference in quality. I think the problem is that most people are too much taken by fancy gadgits and fantastic action sequences to pay too much attention to the story.
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on April 25, 2000
I first saw "The Odessa File" in the late seventies and I recall being very impressed at the time. So when I came across the DVD version at Mediaplay, I couldn't resist getting it to see if it would stand the test of time . I am glad I did because Ronald Naeme's film is as compelling and entertaining now as when I first saw it.
Jon Voight stars as journalist Peter Miller who learns that an infamous Nazi may still be alive. Miller decides to try and track down the war criminal (played by Maximillian Schell) and bring him to justice. The film is helped by solid acting throughout, outstanding cinematography, and an effective score by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The climactic scene between Voight and Schell is absolutely brilliant. The DVD transfer is excellent and of a quality not usually seen in a seventies film with both widescreen and fullscreen versions included. Do yourself a favor and rediscover this classic and underrated gem!
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on April 12, 2002
Those interested in World War II and political events that followed it will thoroughly enjoy this movie. It offers a good mixture of suspense, historical accuracy, and political intrique. "Substance" is the word that comes to mind when watching this classic movie. Jon Voight's acting is pleasure to watch.
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on March 19, 2000
For some reason this is one of the few movies I've always been able to tolerate in its pan & scan version, no doubt because the story is so involving. It's the kind of thriller that grabs your attention from the start, and is never dull. And after watching this glorious new letterboxed DVD transfer, there's no going back to the old tape. -This is how it's supposed to look, and believe me, it's beautiful. The film is full of great scenes looking even greater now, making me a bigger fan of it than I already was to begin with. The pace and look of this movie, the way it's constructed, is the way ALL movies should generally look. Sadly they just don't make them like this anymore; a fact that will only highten your appreciation of this immaculate piece of movie-making.
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on August 19, 2002
I really enjoyed the book. And i was hoping that the movie would stay true to the book - and it did. Jon Voight has been perfectly cast. This movie travels at a livley pace and never fails to entertain. I thoroughly recommend it.
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