North by Northwest

Reviewed By Slyder
Posted 04/10/02 15:04:13

"A Genuine Thrill Ride"
5 stars (Awesome)

My first experience with Alfred Hitchcock was with Rear Window, and excellent suspense flick and one of my all-time favorites, followed by Psycho, which was as chilling as any other movie Iíve seen, then this film came. It was 5:30 in the morning; my sleep had passed off, since my dad awaked me as he headed off to work. I tried to regain my sleep, but it was impossible, so I headed for the TV started flipping the channels, trying to find something to dose me off back to my dreams, but then I stumbled into this movie, and since it was just starting, I decided to give it a casual look. But from the very first sequence, I found myself wide-awake and very into the movie. WOW, it grabbed me and never let me go. It was one of the most entertaining and most thrilling films Iíve ever seen. I fucking liked it from the very beginning. Hitchcock again redefines suspense, adding light comedy, and an endless blend of thrills and chills, that just absorbs you from the very first frame to the final sequence.

The film starts off in New York, as advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant in a great performance) is about to page his ex-wife, when during the paging, heís mistaken by a George Kaplan. Soon a pair of thugs forces him into the car. This classic case of mistaken identity then turns into a real nightmare for Thornhill, since heís been psychologically attacked by Mr. Townsend -later Mr. Vandamm- (James Mason) and his sidekick Leonard (a then-young Martin Landau), who forces him to drink an entire bottle of brandy. He narrowly escapes, but then while investigating Mr. Townsend, heís framed for murder in the UN, and soon runs for his life towards the northwest (hence the title). Along the way he meets blond beauty Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who helps him along the way, or is she? Thornhill then has to rely on his survival instinct to find those responsible for his mistaken identity, and prove his complete innocence, before its too late.

The first thing to praise is nothing else but Hitchcockís infinite talent for suspense. Gosh, the elements in which he builds his atmosphere are just amazing. Just take a look at the first scenes, when the mistaken identity scenario occurs. You donít know whatís going on, or should I say you know, but you never know whatís going to happen next. Then when the big guy appears, you keep wondering whatís going to happen next. On the edge of your seat you always lie. And when the forced-drinking happens, the emotions run high up your spine. Sure, you may have appreciated this in any other film with any other director, but with Alfred Hitchcock, itís just something more. All his talent for suspense is also greatly appreciated in the famous plane chase scene, where nothing is expected at first, but due to the silence of the scene and with the only sounds of passing cars, just gives us feeling of something wrong to happen, and when it happensÖ Gosh, you wonít believe how jammed my hands were in my seat. See what a good filmmaker can do when he does things to perfection?

What I also appreciate from his work here in this move is the interesting way that Hitchcock adds elements of comedy his suspense. The most memorable examples are the drunken car chase scene and the auction scene. Scenes which will have you on the edge of your seat, but also on the verge of laughter, because itís so funny and so riveting, the ways that our hero has to think to try to escape and survive. Wow I must say Hitchcockís direction, along with Ernest Lehmanís tight and intelligent script, makes this film the masterwork that it is.

Some little flaws I noticed, like the one where you compare Grant with his mother, and youíll notice that Grant is of more older age than his mother, so the visual aspect of the characters donít correlate well, and the other being that when he grabs the knife off the dead body in front of a bunch of people. This at first ringed me of the same fucked-up mistake that you can find in the Ashley Judd/Tommy Lee Jones debacle Double Jeopardy, in which Judd grabs the bloodstained knife that killed her husband THE VERY EXACT MOMENT that the Police arrives. But then when you analyze it, you realize that it fits the argument perfectly, and there is a perfect reason for it to be there, hence, the clichť is missed. These things though affect the film minimally, since youíre more concentrated on the film itself rather than these details.

The performances were fantastic. Cary Grant gives one of the best performances of his career in this film. I liked him a lot here and you can relate with him in the movie a lot. Eva Marie Saint is also great as the blond femme fatale that hides a secret within. She represents also a lot of the sensuality that many women have, I donít know, thereís something in her that is to be liked and hated, and it fits this movie perfectly. James Mason is also great as the evil Vandamm, and Martin Landau also gives an understated performance as Vandammís helper. All in all, the cast was great.

In the end, itís absolutely imperative that you see this movie. Gosh this is one of the movies that definitely are here to stay. Iím looking forward to see this movie once more, since it hit me in the face hard and was on my feet up until the every end credits. Thank God for Alfred Hitchcock, the guy never stops impressing me. This film has become one of my all-time favorite films.

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