Mille milliards de dollars (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stuart Galbraith IV
  • Review Date: Feb 23, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Mille milliards de dollars (Blu-ray Review)


Henri Verneuil

Release Date(s)

1982 (December 5, 2023)


V Films/Société Française de Production (Kino Lorber)
  • Film/Program Grade: A-
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B

Mille milliards de dollars (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


Like Henri Verneuil’s earlier I... for Icarus (1979), Mille milliards de dollars (A Thousand Billion Dollars, 1982) is a startlingly frank political thriller of a type hard to imagine being made by an American film company today. Like Verneuil’s earlier Icarus, it’s a little talky and polemic at times, but its directness is refreshing.

The picture seems partly inspired by All the President’s Men (1976), with Patrick Dewaere starring as a Bob Woodward-type investigative reporter for La tribune. There’s a similarly lived-in newsroom set like that film, and even a “Deep Throat”-type informant hanging around shadowy parking garages.

Verneuil’s clever screenplay has Paul Kerjean (Dewaere) investigating Benoît-Lambert, a French Steve Jobs-type president of the country’s top electronics firm, whom Kerjean suspects of accepting a bribe from GTI, a multinational (but primarily American) manufacturing conglomerate. He interviews Mme Benoît-Lambert (Jeanne Moreau), who had hired private detective Walter (Charles Denner) to obtain evidence of her husband’s infidelity with much younger mistress, Laura Webber (Anny Duperey).

To prove to his employer that he was working all the time, Walter shot innumerable photos of Benoît-Lambert even when the mistress wasn’t around, and in the process accidentally captured the electronics whiz with various GTI executives. After Kerjean’s story is published and Benoît-Lambert commits suicide (or maybe was murdered), the reporter begins to suspect a much larger plot by GTI to take over the entire world economy. Recalling a trip to a stockholders’ meeting in Belgium, Kerjean remembers having interviewed, briefly, GTI’s president, Cornelius A. Woeagen (Mel Ferrer), a methodically ruthless Logan Roy clone. The movie’s title comes from Kerjean’s observation that just 30 multinational conglomerates control one thousand billion dollars (i.e., $1 trillion) of the world’s economy, and as Kerjean interviews others associated with GTI, the audience learns just how dangerous this can be. When one factory unionizes and threatens to strike, GTI simply fires everybody, shuts it down and moves it to an adjacent country with no such union safeguards, hiring back workers at lower salaries. In another complex but well-written scene, goods cheaply made in Asia bound for France are shipped through subsidiaries in intermediary countries both to avoid import taxes and gauge importers.

Though a cliché of thrillers today, Mille milliards de dollars is unusually credible in the way it shows how, with billions of dollars at stake, Kerjean risks his life by exposing all this international corruption. (Conversely, back in 1982 there were reputable newspapers facilitating such investigations. What the movie doesn’t foresee is that conglomerates like GTI would simply gobble those up and control their content.) A subplot concerns his estranged wife, Hélène (Caroline Cellier) and their son, whom Kerjean sees on weekends. During his investigation of GTI, Kerjean’s apartment’s elevator is tampered with, and he and his boy almost fall down the elevator shaft.

Later, Kerjean locates a former GTI executive who reveals that, during the war crimes trials of Nazis following World War II, GTI, an American company, was through its German subsidiary suppliers of parts for Focke-Wulf-made bombers, the same bombers bombing Allied countries and, moreover, GTI successfully won millions of dollars in compensation for the destruction of those same German factories by Allies.

This last part particularly actually happened, with a real, Stamford, Connecticut-based conglomerate called ITT, a company many Americans likely never heard of, and clearly the GTI in the film. Just as GTI’s economic influences cause sweeping political upheavals around the globe, ITT was involved in the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état, supported the 1973 Pinochet coup in Chile, scandalized the 1972 Republican National Convention (and, indirectly, was tied to the Watergate break-in) and is still a major defense contractor, insurance provider, and has its mitts in myriad other global industries.

The film presents such complex implications of such economic power believably and in the form of an entertaining thriller. Like I... for Icarus, it’s a little ham-fisted at times but also like that film is so daring and unusual in its content that it’s fascinating from start to finish. Sadly, this was Patrick Dewaere’s penultimate film; he committed suicide just five months after its release. Like Icarus, it’s crammed with familiar French stars: besides those mentioned above, Michel Auclair, Edith Scob, and Fernand Ledoux also appear.

Kino’s Blu-ray, licensed from Gaumont, presents the film in its original 1.66:1 widescreen format, in French with optional English subtitles. The transfer is excellent, clean with exceptionally vibrant color. The DTS-HD Master Audio (2.0 mono) is also very good for what it is, and the disc is Region “A” encoded. However... as with I... for Icarus, I encountered serious issues activating the English subtitles, at least on my player. In both cases, the presentation defaulted to subtitles-off. Turning them on with the subtitle button on my remote, or via the pop-up or main menu all proved unsuccessful. What finally worked was skipping ahead several chapters, fast-reversing backward and turning them on that way.

Supplements include a new audio commentary track by film historian Samm Deighan. Well-researched, it’s one of the better commentary tracks from Kino.

Mille milliards de dollars is slightly superior to I... for Icarus though they run neck-and-neck overall. An intelligent, politically charged and fact-based thriller, it’s highly recommended.

- Stuart Galbraith IV