Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott) sits in a tavern in 1987, contemplating his life so far now he is approaching its conclusion. He wonders if he has been a good man, or if he was worthy of love, and if so whether he let the one who could have offered him peace of mind slip away. He also has a secret, for when he was a younger man (Aidan Turner) he was a U.S. soldier on a mission during World War II: he had been assigned to assassinate Adolf Hitler. To do so, he disguised himself as a Gestapo officer and tracked his quarry across Germany, finally pinpointing his position and with a special gun constructed from other objects he was invited into the Fuhrer's offices - but did he carry it out?
From one perspective, this odd, sad little film could be the mental ramblings of an old man who has been seeking company to tell a really good shaggy dog tale to, but never found it, and that need for human company being continually frustrated was a running theme. Did Barr genuinely assassinate Hitler, or was it something he wished he had done? And what about the other half of the title, does that happen too, or is our protagonist a dreamer who always wanted to live up to the ideal of the American hero, be that in war or plain and simple ruggedness, but found life did not allow it? For it was no spoiler to say the two events that happen in the title are what happen before our eyes.
Yet as one event can be the crucial moment in your existence, that defining occasion, it does not tell the whole tale. Writer and director Robert D. Krzykowksi was caught up in his notions of one aspect of a life not being wholly representative of everything else, and indeed he pondered that how could a person who lived for seventy-plus years, or even less, be summed up by a single achievement? Was Neil Armstrong the first man on the Moon and absolutely nothing else, for instance? Of course not, he was a husband, a father, a friend, but history would record him as that momentous human being - Barr doesn't even get that accolade, as his endeavours are strictly top secret business.
The flashbacks were where we saw Turner's version of the hero play out the heroic, by assassinating the most evil man who ever lived. Yet we also saw how he was unlucky in love, as before he went off to war he was courting a local schoolteacher, Maxine (Caitlin Fitzgerald), who he would have happily given up all his heroism for if given the chance, and the fact that she was not there to meet him when he eventually returned has broken his heart. It is she who defines his time from his perspective, he's not the man who killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot in his own mind, he's the guy who let the best woman who he ever met get away because he was too callow, too nervous, too inexperienced to know how this loss would ache at his soul for the rest of his days. The view from inside will never be the same as the view from outside.
But then there was this pulp element (though not forties pulp, more late sixties pulp) that had Barr contacted by government agents to tell him he is needed once again, this time to save the human race. This is thanks to his blood, which carries an immunity to the potentially genocidal virus carried by Bigfoot (Mark Steger), something that has been reported in the media as a serial killer in the Pacific Northwest but is in reality victims of the creature's infection. Barr is the only man who can track it down and destroy it, in special effects sequences designed by the legendary Douglas Trumbull that were not big and splashy but veered from the subtlety of the rest of the plot as well. That was not the finale, either, as we followed Barr back to civilisation to see if he could attain some contentment, despite his two history-changing actions being enough to satisfy any person hoping to matter in this world. In truth, there was a degree too much restraint and indeed moping here, you may find yourself wishing after more adventure promised by the title, but as a reflective meditation on what stays with you down the years, it had worth. Lush, orchestral music by Joe Kramer.