I’ve always been a fan of superhero films.
Whether it’s a modern Marvel film, classics like The Mark of Zorro (1940) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), or movies like Unbreakable (2000) and Logan (2017) that try to deconstruct the genre, I’ve always gravitated to stories about superheroes. However, as fun as it is to see these larger than life characters fight villains and save the day, it’s worth asking how being a hero affected them. What did they have to sacrifice? Is it even worth it in the end? It’s those questions that The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot (2019) explores in this emotionally charged, passionate, and imaginative film.
The debut film of writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski, the plot of the film, is pretty self-explanatory. It’s about the man, Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott), who killed Hitler and is then tasked by the American government to kill Bigfoot. But rather than taking the form of a traditional action/adventure movie, the film instead acts as a character piece. The story primarily focuses on Barr reflecting on his life, how becoming such a legendary figure impacted him, and what he lost in the process. Through Kryzkowski’s use of a poetic writing style, the film feels like an old legend or myth, towing the line between vague and descriptive with its exposition, giving just enough information to understand the implications of Barr’s work, without being bogged down with too many details. A scene where a young Calvin Barr (Aidan Turner) receives a straight razor shave before killing Hitler is given tremendous and deserved weight thanks to how it’s framed within the context of the story.
To prevent the film from being too heavy-handed with its unique premise, Krzykowski balances its intense and dramatic ideas with a unique and light tone, alternating from ruminating self-reflection to lively bombast with ease. Thanks massively to the gorgeous cinematography from Alex Vendler and a wooing energized score from Joe Kraemer; you feel everything from the highs of Calvin Barr on a mountaintop to the intimacy of his dance with the woman he loves in a jazz club.
Of course, on top of its direction and production, the film is carried by a powerful performance from Sam Elliott, who draws on the masculine archetype he cultivated throughout his career to deliver a stellar performance. He plays the type of man who looks like he’s lived to have stories to tell, lives by a moral code that allows him to be true to himself, and wears his regrets on his sleeve. It’s the type of character seen before, particularly in action movies and westerns, but rarely with the level of vulnerability, sincerity, and commitment that Sam Elliott brings. Coupled with a nuanced performance by Aidan Turner as the younger Calvin Barr and the film does an excellent job presenting Barr as a layered and charismatic character.
Beyond just being a film about sacrifice, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is a layered film, weaving together themes about masculinity, wartime trauma, and the spread of hate. It’s a film that will resonate with genre fans, and anyone looking for some variety in the superhero genre. When the current superhero film trend eventually ends, audiences will surely regard this film as a cult classic.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is currently streaming on Hulu and available on Blu-ray and DVD.