Find the fascist

Rated 3.5 Norman Jewison’s adaptation of Brian Moore’s novel about the pursuit of a French war criminal plays like an intelligent political thriller, but without the cutting edge that Alfred Hitchcock or Costa-Gavras might have given to it.

Pierre Brossard (Michael Caine), a French fascist who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II, was condemned for his part in the killing of seven Jews in June 1944 but escaped punishment and survived in relative comfort under the protection of a network of right-wing Catholics. Assassins of uncertain origin are on his trail, and a magistrate (Tilda Swinton) and military investigator (Jeremy Northam) are reopening the case.

The thematic stakes are impressively high, but much of the story slides along in routine policier fashion. Caine’s performance veers among several pertinent modes—steely villainy, craven self-deception, groveling terror, pious hypocrisy—and unfortunately that kind of complexity gets diluted by too much of the rest of the film.

Charlotte Rampling, in a brief appearance as Brossard’s disaffected ex-wife, is very sharp, but the late Alan Bates, playing a government minister, is almost lost in the crowd of English actors playing French characters but speaking English in a range of Brit accents.