I don’t think I’m making any kind of grand revelation here by declaring that Sam Elliott rules. For anyone who has grown up on a steady stream of badassery from the grizzled actor, he’s proved himself time and time again to be one of the greatest and most enigmatic performers to ever grace the silver screen, and The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot is the perfect showcase for Elliott’s immeasurable talents. And while you might be expecting something a little more bombastic based on the immediately unforgettable title of Robert D. Krzykowski’s stunning debut feature, his story is more interested in taking the introspective route, resulting in an endlessly engaging adventure that manages to pull a few heartstrings along the way.
Ultimately, how Krzykowski frames his narrative is reflected directly in the character of Calvin Barr (Elliott), who, as you can imagine, has had his share of incredible experiences over the years, just based on what the film’s title reveals about his two major achievements. But it seems like Krzykowski has realized a truth about filmmaking that some directors can go through their entire career and never pick up on, and it’s that some of the best stories ever told are the ones that sneak up on you quietly. The restraint shown here by both Krzykowski and Elliott works in tandem so beautifully with this tale of the most extraordinary ordinary man who ever lived. Make no doubt about it, The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot is something very special.
Normally, for a review, I’d do my usual digging into all the plot particulars to set the scene of what viewers can expect, but considering that this film’s two biggest moments are pretty much laid out for you as advertised – and they’re both fantastic set pieces that I found equally enthralling – it feels like of The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot is more interested in all those mundane occurrences that happen around any kind of life-defining moments, which in reality, perfectly reflects the actuality of all of our existences. We all like to think our lives are built upon the foundation of these huge ticks of time when something big happens, but really, it’s all those in-between moments that ultimately define who we are, and become, in this world.
To Calvin, he doesn’t see himself as this amazing warrior, or this bastion of bravery – he’s just a man who asked to do the extraordinary, but in order to do these things, he has had to give up the ordinary pleasures that have been afforded to the rest of us. And in his eyes, it’s just as simple as that. In the scene when two government agents (played by Ron Livingston and Rizwan Manji) show up at Calvin’s house to ask him to carry out the mission to exterminate The Bigfoot (and there’s a very plausible reason why he, of all people, is being asked to do such a thing), there’s a line from Elliott (in reference to him being the guy who actually killed Adolf Hitler) that really stuck with me – “I always did exactly what they said. It’s not the comic book you want it to be.” – and I think if you were to try and summarize The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot in one sentence, it would be that. Calvin doesn’t romanticize his achievements – everyone else does.
There’s no doubt that Elliott and his distinctively rugged screen presence is a huge reason as to why The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot works as well as it does (Krzykowski’s script, and the gorgeous cinematography by DP Alex Vendler are two other hugely important factors that contribute to the film’s overall success), and I love that not only does it give Elliott the opportunity to do what he does best as an actor, but in some ways, the film also parallels Elliott’s career as well. He’s someone who carved out a niche over the last four-plus decades with his penchant for no-nonsense characters, and his turn as Calvin in The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot makes for yet another compelling addition to the pantheon of great Elliott performances.
Also, bonus points to Krzykowski for not only casting Larry Miller in a non-villainous role (what a refreshing change of pace for the always entertaining character actor), but for also opening the movie with Billy Squier’s Lonely is the Night (a song that played a big part in my early childhood years, as my mom was obsessed with the man who introduced all of us to The Stroke in the early 1980s).
Movie Score: 4.5/5