It takes a while to get off the ground, but once it gathers momentum, Expo 67: Mission Impossible proves itself to be a fascinating and ultimately moving look at the events that took place behind the scenes of Montreal’s 1967 international exhibition.
Fifty years after the fact, it is easy to forget what a formidable – and expensive – undertaking Expo ’67 became. Then-mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, is remembered by most as the man who made the exhibition successful, but Expo 67: Mission Impossible seeks to shift the usual focus from Drapdau to the often overlooked team of engineers, organizers, and publicists who carried the weight of the exhaustive four-year project.
Created by Guylaine Maroist, Eric Ruel, and Michel Barbeau (the filmmaking team behind 2012’s Disunited States of Canada), Expo 67: Mission Impossible relies heavily on archival video and photographic evidence as well as interviews with the men and women involved in planning the massive event. From the construction of islands in the St. Lawrence river to a public relations campaign spanning continents, Expo 67 is a detailed look at the often bumpy road that led to the grand opening of Man and His World.
Though the voice-over narration in the first fifteen minutes of the documentary feels forced and overly expository, the inclusion of interviews with some of the men and women that worked to plan Expo ’67 more than makes up for the shaky beginning. The social and historical context is set early on, but what makes the film so successful is its ability to make the audience care about the people behind-the-scenes. Even if you know the outcome, as most of us do, there is an element of tension in the journey because the stakes are personal – not just political or historical. For those involved, Expo ’67 was an event that defined careers, lives, and personal ideas of what it means to be Canadian.
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