The Assignment (1997)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Political Thriller  |   Release Date - Sep 26, 1997 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - Canada   |   MPAA Rating - R
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This sturdy political thriller benefits enormously from a trio of terrific performances and a taut script by Dan Gordon. The film only strains patience by drawing close parallels to a factual international terrorist; the story would have worked a whole lot better had it been fictionalized. One of the film's finest elements is an air of authenticity, which it would have retained without the spurious and distracting contention that it's inspired by actual events and historical figures. That one annoyance aside, it's a gripping examination of paranoia, obsession, and the psychological toll of doing what's right. Quinn, a truly underrated actor, gives one of his best performances in a dual role, one of which must become increasingly like the other, while Ben Kingsley lends able support in his quiet, studiously violent part. Donald Sutherland is a little more lively than normal in his patented "manipulative authority figure" guise, playing it this time as less of a menace, more of a deviant. It's the nimble plausibility of its script that makes The Assignment (1997) such a treat, however. Unlike the majority of cartoonish, numbly unimaginative thrillers, this one's patient, smart, and believable, using character development in place of car chases, gun battles, and explosions, setting it easily a notch or two above its cliché-ridden brethren.