Sunday, March 31, 2013

Movie Review: North by Northwest

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong story that draws you in...
Cons: ...weakened by a few slow parts.
The Bottom Line:
Finally I can see
Why Hitchcock is so famous
For good suspense films




"Patience is a Virtue."  "So is Breathing."

Advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) leads a boring life. The highlight of his week is the play he will be attending with his mother. But when he pops into his club for a quick drink before the show, he is kidnapped.

When he arrives at a country estate, his kidnappers start calling him George Kaplan. Roger has no clue who Kaplan is and says so quite forcefully. Whether they believe him or not, he is forced to drink bourbon and left alone in a car going down a winding country road to die.

The only problem for them is he survives. Determined to find out what the heck is going on, he sets out to track down Kaplan. His efforts land him as the prime suspect in a diplomat's murder.

With his only lead being a hotel room in Chicago, Roger sets out cross country by train. It is there he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), a beautiful woman with a secret of her own. Can Roger find the truth? Maybe, but he will have to face low flying crop dusters and a chase across Mount Rushmore to do it.

I've tried various Hitchcock films in the past and haven't enjoyed them. This is my fourth Hitchcock film, and I finally found one I liked.

The story starts rather quickly as do the twists. By 20 minutes in, I was completely confused and hooked. The movie mostly held my interest all the way until the thrilling climax.

The reason I was hooked so quickly was Roger Thornhill. He's an every man, and I could easily identify with him. As I was watching him, I kept wondering what I would do in his situation. Fortunately, he didn't faint or die (what I would have done), or the movie would have been really boring.

I'm a sucker for witty banter, and this movie has some great lines. Roger has my sense of sarcasm, and he has some truly great lines. It wasn't a laugh a minute by any stretch of the imagination, but the quips at the right time helped make him more human.

The acting was top notch as well. Cary Grant has a lot riding on his shoulders, and he never even comes close to dropping the ball. Eva Marie Saint is perfect as the mysterious woman on the train. There really are no weak links in the cast.

The film was released in 1959, and it shows in a couple of ways. First, the film backdrops, especially near the end, are occasionally obviously sound stages. There are limited special effects, and they are mostly fine. Nothing in the special effects department really stands out as either good or bad.

The bigger problem is the pacing. While the movie starts quickly, the scenes on the train tend to drag. Yes, the romance was important, but it really slowed down the story. I'd find my mind starting to wander before the action picked up again. I often find this with older films, so it is more a reflection of my taste and the time it was made then a slight against this film in particular.

I was about to write Hitchcock off entirely, but after North by Northwest, maybe I'll give him another chance. If you are also unfamiliar with the work of this legend, this might be a good place to start.

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