Private Adrien Dufourquet (Jean-Paul Belmondo) has eight days' leave from the French Army, and he means to spend it with his girlfriend Agnes (Françoise Dorléac), the daughter of an archaeologist who died recently in mysterious circumstances. Connected to this is the theft of a statuette found in the Amazon, one of a set of three, from the Paris museum of one of the deceased's colleagues, Professor Norbert Catalan (Jean Servais), just as Adrien's train pulls into the station across town. When he walks in on the police questioning Agnes he is oblivious to the danger - but he'll wake up to it sooner or later...
Decades before Jamie Bell took the role of Tintin in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster based on the character, one of France's greatest movie stars did the same back in 1964. Well, sort of, as Jean-Paul Belmondo wasn't sporting a quiff and accompanied by a little white terrier, but director Philippe de Broca was keen to pay tribute to the famed comic book character and therefore drew a selection of influences from Hergé's originals to create a patchwork of Tintin's exploits, which remained its own entity thanks to the star putting his indelible stamp on it. That included doing his own stunts, a decision he was always keen to make for his films for he thought it made them more authentic.
Not for nothing was Belmondo extremely well thought of by the Hong Kong stars such as Jackie Chan, who followed his lead by performing their death-defying acrobatics and suchlike in their own vehicles years later, and when you see the antics he got up to it was easy to admire his physicality. A mere five years after Jean-Luc Godard had made him a star playing a man who idolised Humphrey Bogart, Belmondo had become a celebrity, and dare we say it, icon in the same way, reflected in That Man from Rio's huge success at not only the French box office, but internationally as well. You couldn't fake the style and energy which had audiences responding back then, and indeed still do: as an exercise in thrill management, this was very impressive.
Though we begin in Paris, as the title suggests we don't stay there, for Agnes gets kidnapped and is soon bundled onto a flight where she is headed for the Brazilian capital. But all is not lost as Adrien has hightailed it across the city in hot pursuit, and part of the theme here is how many vehicles de Broca could get his leading man to travel on - in the first fifteen minutes he's been on a train, a motorbike and a plane. In a way it's easy to allow this all to gloss over you, such was the breakneck pace of the enterprise, not exhausting exactly, but you might find your eyes glazing over as the next action setpiece bursts into life before you've gotten used to the previous one being completed. Belmondo, however, was a boon to this sort of material in that you would follow him no matter what was happening onscreen.
No matter how hectic it became either, and at times you might be grateful for a scene where Adrien simply stopped, bent double and panted deeply for a minute just to get his breath back, never mind allow us to find our bearings in the plot. It wasn't only Belmondo who was the draw here, of course, as there was a selection of exotic locations to provide a feast for the eyes, yet also a more bittersweet element in Dorléac, for this was pretty much the film which made her a star, a state of affairs which did not last long for she died tragically young a mere three years later. The older sister of Catherine Denueve, where she was more the ice queen type, Françoise was vivacious and bright, so watching her dance with the locals or play in the surf you can well understand why she appealed to so many in the sixties. She made a great pairing with Belmondo, even if he does seem to spend most of the movie saving her; this was what you'd term a whirlwind, and its high spirits were infectious. Music by Georges Delerue.
This French director was best known internationally for his cult sixties movies Cartouche, That Man from Rio and King of Hearts, but he continued working up until his death. Other films included Tendre Poulet and Le Bossu.