Twilight’s Last Gleaming is a good destination for anyone looking for precursors to The Rock or the television show 24. The Rock possesses the idea of a rogue army officer threatening a terrorist attack against a U.S. government that he feels has acted dishonestly. 24 contains the idea of a race against time told across split-screens. However, neither The Rock or 24 had Robert Aldrich in command.
Robert Aldrich is a pulp fiction filmmaker. His movies deal with the less than noble elements of society – the criminal, the corrupt, the broken and the battered. However, his heroes are often trying to right a wrong or to make amends. Twilight’s Last Gleaming is no different, but as Aldrich flicks go, this ones is not his greatest. Forced to re-create U.S. military installations in Munich, where the film was shot, the sets lack the heft and weight of real life military structures. The chintzy sets and props cheapen the look of the film and distract from the rather serious political statement being made by the characters.
Further more, the split-screen is more experiment than artistic statement. While it pulls together disparate locations and characters something is amiss with the editing within each frame. It is a matter I want to explore more deeply in other films that use split-screen, but in short let me say this. When a split-screen is used to show that two actions are taking place in two different locations and edit within one of those screens indicates a break in time or a shift in location. This disruption, especially when no such disruption takes place in the other screen is jarring.
Still, this is a tense little chess-match of a film and like most Aldrich films we find ourselves rooting for an unlikely, but fully driven, anti-hero, who in this day and age would be labeled a traitor or worse yet, a terrorist. And, just what does this terrorist want? Simply, the truth – that the U.S. government has hidden away some rather nefarious facts from the general public, facts that would forever change how Americans view their country. It’s an idea as possible today as it was in 1977, but let’s hope it remains pulp fiction.