As a teacher, one of my favorite parts of Summer is having the time to catch up with movies I was unable to watch during the school year. I love film, especially movies that are a pleasant, refreshing surprise. “The Man who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot” falls into that category. I found it to be very creative, introspective, and it took chances that other movies fail to do. It was a refreshing find in a cinema landscape filled with remakes, sequels, reboots and spin-offs.
The movie centers around the character named Calvin Barr, played by Sam Elliot. It is now modern day, and this aging man lives a quiet and solitary life in a small town, living only with his dog. He frequents the local bar, and seems to be liked and respected, but he lives withdrawn from society. We discover that he was a soldier in World War II, and as the title implies, he was trained for a top secret mission: Kill Adolph Hitler. As a result of this enormous and important task, the US government approaches him to eliminate yet another plague on society: The Bigfoot. The remainder of the movie deals with this mission, and the aftermath of that mission.
The main reason I initially gave the movie a shot was the star, Sam Elliot. For me, everything this man touches is gold. From his earlier movies such as Mask (1985), Roadhouse (1989) and Tombstone (1993), up until his most recent supporting role in the widely acclaimed “A Star is Born,” Elliot turns out consistent, solid and complex characters. This movie is no exception, and with the lead role, he is able to create a likable, nuanced character who we genuinely care for, and for whom we cheer. He is not without his faults, but that is what makes him earn our empathy. The beauty of the character is that he is an iceberg, in the sense that most of what makes him up is buried under the surface, and we don’t see it. It makes the character more engaging, and it gives him a mysterious nature. It is clear that the writer and director of this movie (Robert D. Krzykowski) wrote this with Sam Elliot in mind. I can’t really think of any other actor who could have pulled this role off, other than Clint Eastwood…who may be a few years too old for the role. Sam Elliot gave this movie life, and keeps the viewer hooked and engaged due to his charisma and screen presence.
If you watch this movie to see the two items described in the title…you won’t be disappointed. The beauty of this movie is that although it is named for these two landmark events, they are not the focus of the story. The story is about this man and the sacrifices he makes in his life to do the right thing for his country and community. Calvin Barr is a microcosm of every man and woman who have served this nation in some way, and sacrificed aspects of their own life as a result. As such, this movie has no clear genre. Some aspects are drama. Some are action/adventure. Some are comedy. It’s just like real life. In one scene, Sam Elliot summarizes his role and existence in World War II to two FBI agents, and tells them the truth is a lot less interesting than what we imagine. He doesn’t see himself as a hero, or even extraordinary. He sees himself as just another man who did what was asked of him-nothing more, and nothing less.
If you go into this movie expecting non-stop action, or a “The Notebook” style love story…or even an edge of your seat thriller, you will be disappointed. The movie isn’t about that. It’s a celebration of an ordinary man called upon to complete extraordinary tasks. It allows us in his thoughts (sometimes!) and into his home and world. He is a simple, basic, and principled man just trying to put together the pieces of his life and move onwards the best he can. What is so appealing about this movie, and the way the story is told is how honest and simple it is. That makes us love him, respect him, and cry tears for him at times.
If you’re looking for something fresh and new, give this movie a chance. It’s well worth your 100 minutes, and it’s something you haven’t seen before, which in itself is worth exploring!