North by Northwest (1959)

reviewed by
Rick Pali

                           NORTH BY NORTHWEST
                       A film review by Rick Pali
                        Copyright 1997 Rick Pali

Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is a Madison Avenue advertising executive. He's mistaken for someone else and a pair of thugs kidnap him right in the middle of a meeting. What follows is a suspenseful roller-coaster ride as we follow Thornhill in his attempts to escape this nightmare and get his own life back. Be ready for lots of surprises because nothing, and no one, is what they first seem.

In some reading I've done, I've seen this film referred to as a first James Bond film, but without gadgets. It was released just three years before the first Bond film, Dr. No. I see what they were trying to say but I don't completely agree. What this is rather, is a Bond film without gadgets or Bond. Thornhill is a regular guy, not an international spy! Sheesh, his mother (Jessie Royce Landis) nags at him every chance she gets. When's the last time you saw Bond in that situation? And I think that the film is all the more interesting and entertaining because of Thornhill's more domestic origins.

Of course, Grant is great in this film. He can really play a character that knows what he's doing, and he can really play a character that doesn't. Rarely has any actor done both so well with the same character in the same film. What's not to like? Eve Kendall is the main female character (played by Eva Marie Saint), but she doesn't come off nearly as well. I found her performance cold and emotionless. One could argue that's exactly how that character should be played, but it was a little extreme for me. James Mason is the wonderfully sinister mastermind villain, and the ridiculously skinny Martin Landau is not one to tangle with as the villain's right-hand-man.

North by Northwest stands very tall among the grand-scale action thrillers of the 50s/60s in my books. It's simply a classic. If you haven't seen it, you'd best correct that oversight.

****1/2 (out of five)****1/2

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