When a prominent leftist politician is killed, a local magistrate
discovers deep connections within his own right-wing government.
Directed by Costa-Gavras
Written by Jorge Semprún
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand, Irene Papas,
Pierre Dux, Jacques Perrin, Charles Denner, Marcel Bozzuffi,
Renato Salvatori, Georges Géret
Based on the novel by Vasilis Vasilikos
Oscar Wins - Best Foreign Film, Best Film Editing
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Adapted Screenplay
Z made cinematic history when it became the first foreign film ever nominated for both Best Foreign Film and Best Picture at the Oscars. It would take another 50 years for a foreign film to finally win top honors (Thank you, Parasite), but this film paved the way for films like Roma, Life is Beautiful, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to be considered. And boy, oh, boy is this film intense. Z is based heavily on the real life assassination of Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis and the right-wing military coup that followed. Costa-Gavras does not hold back with his dark critique of the Greek government. This film is infuriating if you hold any sort of liberal political view.
A prominent leftist politician (Montand) looks like he's going to rally the people and change his country's future. Then, he is beaten to death at a public rally. The magistrate in charge of the case (Trintignant) wants only to find the culprit, but the more he searches, the more connections he finds between the murder and high-up politicians in the government. Basically, the right murdered the leading leftist politician by hiring two fall guys and denying their involvement. Despite the magistrate's attempts at serving justice, nobody important was charged and all who tried to rock the boat were either killed or exiled. The names were changed, but this really happened in Greece in the 1960's.
Z is a powerful political thriller that really shines a light on the horrific direction the Greek government was going in. Everyone involved was taking a great risk to make this, and the finished product is really something special. The performances are great, the story is engaging, and the subject matter is infuriating but important and unforgettable. Maybe this deserved the big win back then.