The Fall Of The American Empire

(La Chute de l'empire américain)

A provocative crime thriller from Denys Arcand

The rich grow richer and the poor are just collateral damage in The Fall Of The American Empire. This new film by writer/director Denys Arcand (The Decline Of Tthe American Empire), is a sardonic, solidly entertaining fusion of crime caper and state-of-the-nation rumination.

Poster for the morality drama The Fall Of The American EmpireMoney lies at the root of all the evils that Arcand observes. It is a haunting refrain in a film that mourns the growing number of homeless and the spread of food banks, while wagging a finger at corporate greed.

Thirty-something Pierre-Paul (Alexandre Landry) appears to be the last apostle of decency in a rotten, callous world. He has a PhD in philosophy, is still burdened with student loans and earns a living as a courier. He has come to believe that intelligence is a handicap in a world that favours the corrupt and those who have abandoned any sense of morality or community.

Everything changes for Pierre-Paul when he is present at a botched robbery and makes an impulsive decision to pocket the multi-million dollar proceeds for himself. Trying to figure out what to do with the money and how much it might change him fuels a cleverly plotted ensemble piece that eventually draws in ex-con Sylvain Bigras (Rémy Girard) and escort Aspasie (Maripier Morin).

There are flaws in The Fall Of The American Empire, but it works thanks to the thought-provoking material in the screenplay, some sharp lines, and the quality of the performances. Alexandre Landry makes Pierre-Paul an endearingly naive, angst-ridden intellectual struggling to stay calm and survive an extraordinary situation. And Arcand regular Remy Girard is a scene-stealing delight as ‘honest criminal’ Bigras.

– Allan Hunter, Screen International

La Chute de l’empire américain, nouveau film de Denys Arcand, est un projet à propos, beau et accessible. Il ne sera jamais qualifié de chef-d’oeuvre comme ses homologues « américain » et
« barbares », mais il est certainement satisfaisant grâce à son intelligence caustique et la pertinence de son sujet.

Comme il en a l’habitude, Arcand a rédigé des dialogues musclés qui forcent le spectateur à rester pendu aux lèvres des personnages. Le monologue de Pierre-Paul (Alexandre Landry), philosophe désillusionné qui se croit plus sage et lucide que le commun des mortels, est un véritable petit bijou de scénarisation. Dès les premières minutes, on comprend l’esprit du protagoniste, sa quête et les limites de son éthique personnelle. 

La thématique de l’argent et le questionnement que Denys Arcand installe en nous sont pertinents. On ne peut faire autrement que se demander si, à la place de Pierre-Paul, nous aurions, oui ou non, volé les sacs remplis de billets de banque que des criminels avaient abandonnés après une fusillade. Qu’on ait une réponse ou non à ce débat moral, La Chute de l’empire américain mérite qu’on s’y attarde.

– Elizabeth Lepage-Boily, Cinoche

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