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IMDb Top 250: 39 "They said I lived a dull life." says Roger Thornhill,
hero of the Hitchcock classic, 'North by Northwest'. And for 2 hours
and 11 minutes it's most certainly not true. 'Northwest' is an
essential thriller, and one of Hitchcock's best.
Cary Grant stars as a Mad Man (advertising agent) who is mistaken for a spy. Things don't go his way, and he becomes wanted for murder too. He goes on the run to find out what's going on, aided by Eve Kendall. Unlike many other thrillers, even Hitchcock's own quintessential 'Psycho', events are set into motion right away. And then you can't let go. There are many twists, some small, some large, but right until the abrupt end, a viewer cannot call this film boring.
It starts with the leading man. Cary Grant looks the part of a New York businessman. His surprised expression isn't the most convincing, but his charm is. His chemistry with Eve Marie Saint chemistry makes the dialogue-laden scenes, namely the remarkable train scene, interesting and charming to watch. They're a great couple.
Speaking of scenes, Northwest has several notable and famous ones. The aforementioned train sequence, the art auction, and the lunchroom are cute, funny and shocking, but two steal the show. The very famous plains with the cropduster, and the chase on Mount Rushmore. The duster is just so out there it's fantastic, and the most iconic part of the film, and the chase is grand and nailbiting.
Worth noting, the title sequence is really cool, and the musical score is fitting. On another note, two things bugged me: *mild spoilers* why Thornhill would pull the knife out and turn to a camera is beyond me and unbelievable- I understand it moved the plot, but Hitchcock's a smart guy, he could've thought of a more reasonable scenario. Also the ending, while involving everything necessary, was very abrupt. We went from danger to 'The End' in less than 10 seconds. But these are acceptable issues in an otherwise outstanding film that as stood the test of time and aged very well. 8.7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the best Hitchcock films, "North By Northwest" can be
interpreted on many levels. On one hand this is a suspense
extravaganza, with the plot featuring more twists and turns than a
roller-coaster ride, and with some of the most impressive sequences
ever, particularly the airplane scene and the chase at Mount Rushmore.
This is impeccably shot, and it shows. Even the love affair between the
2 protagonists takes advantage of the settings, displaying irony and
On the other hand, as a character study this is even more interesting. Roger Thornhill, your average middle-class advertising executive leading a dull life, out of a twist of fate is mistaken for a government spy, and becomes the target for the criminal group of Phillip Vandamm. The film's intense pace takes the form of a dream, a person that loses control of his life and then transforms to the person he's mistaken for. Roger Thornhill, half by accident and half by his own will transforms to spy decoy George Kaplan.
The board of government spy directors, led by the Professor, represents the forces that control destiny. They control both Eve Kendall's and Thornhill's fate. And they choose to dispatch with Thornhill altogether since he doesn't fit the general scheme of things. Thornhill gets entangled in a Kafka-esquire nightmare. Kendall, the femme fatale, is a government spy herself trying to uncover Vandamm by working closely on his side and being his lover. A Freudian labyrinth.
Thornhill manages to be in charge of his own destiny, to the point where he gets to play a vital role to the people around him. The government now wants to use him, Eve Kendall falls in love with him but he also jeopardizes her mission, and ditto for Vandamm, now sure that Thornhill really is Kaplan. The surprising ending also contributes to the film's dream-like feel, with a sudden switch from a near-death scene to a generic happy ending. It can be translated two ways, either an ironic take on film endings, or Thornhill's fantasy. A fantasy within a fantasy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An advertising executive is unsuspectingly setup by intelligence to
pose as a decoy to a spy who supposedly, but doesn't exist. The
suspense and thrills are great. And I especially like that frightening
sequence in the airport after Thornhill asks Townsend "Do you recognize
this man?" And then Townsend's eyes suddenly bulge... and - well, I
won't spoil that scene just yet.
I just wished that the fact that Thornhill was divorced by his ex's because of his living a dull life was foreshadowed more extensively. but I guess they couldn't have because as they say: START WHEN YOUR STORY STARTS. And I don't think it can count as a plothole or a flaw.
You can see how Lehman crafts his story with care, precision and how he waits for that scene in the end where Eve reveals why she works for intelligence, and why she decided to cooperate. -- "Has life always been like that?" Very interesting to see Thornhill's character arc. Watch how he pretends to have forgotten about Eve in the hospital. Watch what he does when CIA old man steps out to get him his drink. There's also a quick, funny scene where the woman in glasses goes "STOP...... I mean.... Stop." I especially like Bernard Hermann's thrilling score. It has such an exhilarating, and sometimes hypnotic mood to it --- It's played in the beginning, in the scene where the intoxicated Roger tries to drive thru the hills, and in the movie's finale in Mt. Rushmore.
Nowadays, its often hard to find an action film that's can be very solid, plausible and maybe have a feel-good aspect at the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having been created during one of director Hitchcock's most fertile periods, this is, as screenwriter Lehman put it, "The Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures". The movie throws in virtually all of the legendary director's favorite types of cinematic trademarks from his own walk-on role, a man wrongly accused, an icy blonde who may be dangerous, action sequences taking place in unusual locales and a MacGuffin, to name only a few. Grant plays an ad executive who happens to attract the attention of two henchmen who mistake him for a government spy. They kidnap him and try to extract info from him. Once they realize they've chosen the wrong man, they try to kill him, but he slips away, only to come back the next day with heated accusations. Rather than let the matter rest, he starts to investigate the situation which quickly becomes deadly for him and for others. He sets out on a cross-country jaunt from New York City to Mount Rushmore with both the police and the villains nipping at his heels. Grant provides a typically charming and suave portrayal. He deftly pendulums from serious concern to humor to romance. Supplying the romance is Saint as a sexy, mysterious woman he meets on a train. She does an excellent job of portraying her character's inner turmoil as well as the light sarcasm that goes with her sophisticated persona (though it's more than a little ridiculous when she states her age as 26. She was nearly a decade past that.) The chief bad guy is Mason, in a laid-back and coolly above-it-all type of performance. He's menacing, but never breaks a sweat, preferring to let his sidekicks take care of the dirty work. His primary sidekick is Landau, who can be perceived as (and was intended to be displayed as) a homosexual, though the suggestion is fairly subtle. Landis, only several years older than Grant in real life, plays his mother in an amusing turn. Other notable cast members include the sturdy Carroll, who worked with Hitchcock in more films than anyone else, and Lang, who would later go on to rage at Tippi Hedren in "The Birds". Hutchison, best known for her role in "Harvey" plays a rather dubious mistress of the house where Grant is held and "General Hospital's" Beradino plays a cop who picks up Grant for drunk driving. The film gets off to a smashing start with the captivatingly cacophonous score by Bernard Herrman and, while long, rarely lets up in its trek from one scenario to the next. Nearly all of the set pieces are memorable, if not legendary, including the trip to the United Nations, the corn field conflagration and most importantly the chase up and down the faces of Mount Rushmore. Here Hitch indulges in another one of his favorite touches, having Saint lose piece after piece of her striking ensemble and becoming more and more disheveled. Incidentally, the director's favorite costume designer Edith Head was not part of this MGM production, leaving him without her wonderful tailoring and clean lines. He rejected the costumes offered up by the studio and purchased the bulk of Saint's wardrobe "off the rack" at Bergdorf-Goodman! Only one of the set pieces falls flat today and that is the drunken chase along a winding and perilous highway. Bad rear projection and some hammy close-ups from Grant render this one sequence less than perfect. However, that's quibbling when the rest of the film is so good. The ending (both the section involving the leads and the tag with the train) couldn't be more perfect.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is the most famous of all of Alfred Hitchcocks work & is the
one that more people remember Cary Grant for now. When Alfred made this
film, he had learned everything about playing the audience through a
vast experience in films, plus his TV show. It shows in this one. It is
wonderfully paced, imaginative, provocative, & suspenseful all at the
The imagination used to design this film, from using the UN Building for a murder scene to Mount Rushmore for scenery and suspense, to the barest flat farmland in the Mid-west, & then making a surprise happen at every location is just amazing. Hitchcock did a fun trailer for this movie that plays like a travel agent promo.
The plot is Grant (Thornhill) being mistaken for an imaginary spy fits perfect & the cast is perfect. James Mason is an excellent actor and performs very well as the heavy in this film. Eva Marie Saint is a hot double agent being asked to sacrifice all for her country. She lends an air of class to the proceedings. Martin Landau is fine supporting the bad guys. Leo G Carroll is excellent in support as a top US intelligence man known as the Professor who seems to be pulling all the strings.
I am not sure how this thriller could be any better & I pray no one will ever try to remake this one. Hitchcock has been copy proof as the attempts at redoing Psycho have proved. Unfortunately, I am afraid someone will try to attempt other films he did. I just pray this isn't one of them. If they do, Hitch should rise out of his grave & shoot them!
I've always considered Hitchcock one of the finest directors in the way
he can retain such versatility and have consistent quality of film
throughout his entire career. Hitchcock was a master at creating and
reviving genres; this personally never ceases to amaze me. North By
Northwest could have so easily of been a "run of the mill" thriller
that had no elements of comedy or any kind of style. Luckily it makes a
fast-paced piece of weekend entertainment.
North By Northwest turns everything upside down. The quirky story of the film reacts to the surroundings so well and the famous locations are great choices for chase scenes and adrenaline action. This was action before action was really a genre and the classy script will make the viewer feel extremely satisfied. The script adds the comedy to the film and Cary Grant's tremendous style and class A acting ability is something one can never tire of. For example, the scene in the lift where everyone is laughing, Cary Grant's expression is just priceless. Cary Grant's acting ability impresses throughout the film and remains cool and collected. Cary Grant makes a clumsy/un-predictable "James Bond" in North By Northwest and it remains one of his most iconic films that he starred in.
Some may find the film hard to take seriously because it is very different to how you'd expect a Hitchcock film to be, yet it still has his trademark written all over it. The reason for this is the fact the story is goofy. The chemistry and added romance in the film works very well with the surrounding and creates a great atmosphere. The obvious sexual tensions that are scattered throughout the film show that North By Northwest was ahead of its time. The sexual innuendo is a high point for the film and the script's fast paced rhythm is what keeps the film moving so well.
Hitchcock's direction works perfectly with the film and the vast variety of skills shows in some of the action scenes prove to be very exciting. The "mother" attitude that is scattered throughout the film remains one of Hitchcock's trademark styles, which he then uses in his latter work "Psycho". Bar none one of the highest octane and entertaining films ever made, slick, stylish, sexy and downright thrilling.
The greatness of North by Northwest may be measured in part by its
imitators. Two of my favorite movies, both made since 1959, are "Silver
Streak" and "The Sting". Both were very popular movies that borrowed
heavily from it. It is easy to look back now, see the scenes with Cary
Grant on the train, and say " I've seen this before". Sure, in "Silver
Streak", which had Gene Wilder and Jill Clayburgh trading sexual
innuendos across the dinner table ("I give great phone" was one line)
just as Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint did. Or to watch the climactic
gun battle between Robert Redford and Paul Newman in "The Sting" and
have the same reaction. Both of these movies, made in the 70's, were
big hits, but how many people knew that Hitchcock deserved half the
As I watched this movie again (hadn't seen it for a long time), I was also struck by Martin Landau's understated but captivating performance. Based on his work in this film, he would have been just right for the part of Mr Spock in Star Trek, a role that Gene Rodenberry wanted him to take. Cool and emotionless playing next to James Mason, one can definitely see the Spock in him.
One of Hitch's best and probably Cary Grant's Best. The scene in the elevator with Cary Grant and his mother and the scene at the auction are priceless. My wife and I still think that the man who Cary Grant steals the cab from later went on to play Les Nesmith in WKRP in Cincinatti. This is also a great chance to hear two of the most distinct voices in Movie history, Cary Grant and James Mason. This movie is a delight. Hitchcock also out does himself in picking of all places Mount Rushmore for the climax of the movie. It ranks right up there with the fight scene on the statute of Liberty with Bob Cummings in Saboteur. Hope you get hooked on Hitchcock like me. In conclusion, Hitchcock sets the pace for this non-stop thriller within 5 minutes of the movie and doesn't let go till after the credits. Throughout the entire movie, the one thread that holds it together is the composure of Grant through all the adversities thrown at him.
I believe that this film is one that will be watched for generations to come, and that is not something I am willing to say of many films. The fact that it remains a much-loved film by all is enough to say it has stood the test of time. I much regret that I did not have the opportunity to see it when it first came out and was groundbreaking in its complexity and brilliance. It came out in a period where the vast majorities of mystery/thrillers were neither mysterious nor thrilling, yet this proved to be both, even today. Had I seen it when it first hit the big screen, I undoubtedly would have rated it 10/10, yet the reasons for the subtraction of points are minimal and probably anal. Firstly, while the ending on the obviously green-screened Mount Rushmore is thrilling, it came off as slightly cheesy, and not exactly the dynamic finish I have witnesses in some more recent thrillers. Secondly, I think that some of the scenes between Roger (Cary Grant) and Eve (Eva Marie Saint) drag on just a little too long for my taste, and although they are entertaining, they just don't fit in with the flow of the whole. All in all, though, I would say it is a thoroughly entertaining and exciting film, well worth seeing.
Despite being in my 40s, I have only just discovered Alfred Hitchcock
and have over the last few months, started watching his films.
Initially i thought, that due to their age, they would not fare well
against more recent movies. I could not have been more wrong.
North by Northwest on a big widescreen in Dolby 5.1 surround is simply great. Sure some of the dialogue seems clumsy and dated, but you have to consider the type of censorship that would have existed when this film was released in 1959. The sort of "colourful" language we take for granted today would never have been allowed. Also some of the "special effects" are lame by today's standards. But the way in which the story unfolds is just incredible and just great fun to watch. It was simply entertaining. Something that today's special effects blockbusters often fail to accomplish. I eagerly look forward to my next Hitchcock film.
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