|Page 6 of 53:||               |
|Index||523 reviews in total|
A timeless classic, one of the all-time great motion picture achievements. Cary Grant is an advertising executive whose life is turned upside down in the most bizarre way when he is mistaken for a mysterious government agent. Throughout an exciting adventure across America he must contend with spies, romance, betrayal and, in one famous scene, a murderous crop duster pilot. The genius of North by Northwest is that, despite imitations and the countless thrillers that followed it, one never knows quite what the next plot twist will be, or even what is real and what is not. Even nearly five decades later, the astounding finale at Mount Rushmore remains an amazing feat. North by Northwest is the perfect merger of all that was great about Hitchcock and all what is great about film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cary Grant is THE James Bond who never was.
He was approached to play the role in the early 60's but he declined, citing that he was too old. Sean Connery got the job instead, and was a huge success. But one feels that Grant would have been the definitive Bond if he ever played the role. This, and 'Notorious', are certainly his best films for Hitchcock, and this is certainly his best Bond-type role. He stars as Roger O. Thornhill, a suave, womanising, New York advertising executive who is drawn into a web of intrigue after suffering a case of mistaken identity. He ends up being pursued across the country, unwittingly embroiling himself further in the web with his dalliances with Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint, as the Is She Good Or Is She Bad? femme)and others.
Hitchock's favoured 'Wrong Man' situation is utilised perfectly here, as Grant is caught up in circumstances that he has no control over. But Grant takes it on the chin, and his charisma and comedic timing as Thornhill are excellent. This is a most entertaining and humorous Hitchcock film that maintains it's pace and action for over two hours. The suspense never lets up, as we are treated with some truly amazing sequences, including the finale atop Mt Rushmore, a UN headquarters visit, and THAT pesky crop duster. And keep in mind that these are just a few of the many, many amazing scenes here.
Eva Marie Saint is so different here from the innocent Edie Doyle role in 'On The Waterfront' that garnered her an Oscar. She's matured into a sweetly seductive woman of the world who Grant falls head over heels for. Their encounter on the train is filled with corny pick-up lines and rather silly yet juicy dialogue, but it WORKS. One feels cheated when the train affair actually ends; re-winding is essential.
Hitch's love of trains is also conveyed perfectly here, with the train symbolising sexual attraction and mystery (check the closing shot especially- very overt symbolism!), as Grant and Saint ride on board. We also have great villains in James Mason and Marty Landau. The very charismatic James Mason is wonderful as the trademark very charismatic Hitchcock villain, Phillip Vandamm. His trademark mellifluous voice and dark good looks (is this man not insanely attractive?)are used to great effect here. He gets many great lines.
This is a re-working of Hitchcock's British film, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935) with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. Comparison is not really warranted, as they films from entirely different era's and made in different countries with vastly differing budgets. However, 'North by Northwest' jumps over the earlier effort when they are compared as just two Hitchcock films from the cannon.
Made a year after 'Vertigo' bombed, 'North By Northwest' is seen by many as Hitch's safe, crowd-pleaser film. True in many ways, yet it is an unassailable classic regardless of any formulaic overtones. Grant is perfect in this rip-roaring ride full of suspense.
Alfred Hitchcock made this film at the height of his genius and also at
the height of his popularity, when his television show gave him the
kind of exposure and face recognition usually reserved for only the
biggest stars. Hitch always maintained that great films should also
entertain, North by Northwest being presented here as our star witness
to prove his assertion to be correct.
Cary Grant plays Roger O. Thornhill as the slick Madison Avenue advertising man who is mistaken to be George Kaplin, a spy hot on the trail of Phillip Vandamm, played masterfully by James Mason. All we really know about Thornhill is the statement he makes to Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) on the train from New York to Chicago that he has a mother, several bartenders and two ex-wives dependant upon him for support. The "O" used to initial his middle name stands for "nothing" and his initials, R.O.T., sum up his life. These details are revealing and the scene is beautifully crafted, showing us the apparent emptiness of his life prior to this adventure. Ernst Lehman's script is loaded with these types of gems throughout the picture.
If you're really not into excellent dialogue and clever acting and prefer that the story get on with it, this also is the movie for you, as it has two of the most memorable action sequences in the history of motion pictures. Of course I'm referring to the crop dusting sequence and the finale on top of Mount Rushmore. Those are enough to put this movie near the top of anyone's must see list.
Kudos are also due to Leo G. Carroll in one of his best character roles as The Professor, who's humble appearance belies the fact that he is the one who is responsible for manipulating much of the action behind the scenes. A young Martin Landau, as Leonard, Vandamm's "right arm", shows us in the few scenes that he's in what a capable actor he was. The music by the great Bernard Herrmann is one of the classic pieces that made him famous, starting from the clever opening title sequence to it's conclusion.
If we view this movie in its historical context of 1959, we see that it was made in the middle of the Cold War, and much of the suspense is reliant upon the audience's reality of living with the knowledge that everything could end with the press of a button (I know this is too simplistic, but many people's perception at this point in history was just that). The Professor, Vandamm, Ms. Kendall, Leonard and others are Cold Warriors, and it is Thornhill's misfortune to become swept up in it's intrigues, but our very great fortune to be able to get swept up with him and let Hitcock, the "Master of Suspense", be our guide in one of his masterworks.
Together with "Psycho" and "The Birds", "North by Northwest" is among
Hitchcock's most famous and praised films. It has been said that this
movie marks the beginning of the action/thriller as we know it today,
and not without reason as this film takes Hitchcock's favorite plot
(ordinary man in unbelievable adventures) to the extreme in an epic
adventure across U.S.
Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, an ordinary man who is mistaken for a spy and suddenly gets involved in a series of intrigues and adventures that will take him from Washington to Mount Rushmore as he tries to put an end to his problem. James Mason plays Phillip Vandamm, the international criminal who believes that Thornhill works for the U.S. government and desperately wants to kill him. Eve Marie Saint is Eve, a mysterious woman who helps Roger but has a secret agenda of her own.
It is obvious that Hitchcock wanted to pleasure his audience after the mixed reviews he received in "Vertigo", as he gives thrill after thrill in this roller-coaster but always with class and elegance. Thornhill goes from one peril to another and the suspense is always on the rise. Also, his dark humor returns and Cary Grant definitely is the best man to deliver it.
Cary Grant is perfect as Roger Thornhill, and it is probably the role of his lifetime. It is very well known the fact that James Stewart was the first choice but was rejected after the failure of "Vertigo". Even when personally I consider Stewart a better actor, Cary Grant was the perfect actor for the lighter Hitchcock; with his suave persona, good humor and classy elegance, Grant shines here as well as in "suspicion" and "To Catch a Thief". On the other hand, Stewart was more apt for the darker side of Hitchcock in films like "Rope", "Rear Window", and the masterpiece "Vertigo".
Eve Marie Saint joins the ranks of the icy blonds in the Master's films, as the beautiful and mysterious Eve. There was clearly good chemistry between her and Grant, and the sexual innuendo is brilliant. One can really believe that they are a couple of lovers in the middle of the international intrigue. Martin Landau and James Mason complete the cast as the villains and they surely give brilliant performances. The young Landau was set for a bright future and he demonstrates it in this early role.
Many things can be said about "North by Northwest", but one thing is true; while this movie is basically a series of scenes of danger and adventure, Hitchcock's masterful touch separates it from the rest and puts it in a superior place. His perfect camera-work and the score by the always effective Bernard Herrmann created immortal scenes. Sure, "Vertigo" is a superior movie, but it is easy to see why this one succeeded where "Vertigo" failed: "North by Northwest" was designed to please the audience.
Honestly, "North By Northwest" is not a perfect movie, it has its flaws and it is definitely not Hitchcock's best film. However, it has a lot of something special that can only be classified as "magic" that one can't help but enjoy the 136 minutes of thrills and adventure that the Master of Suspense prepared for us. 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If only all films could be as rewarding to watch as this, I was hooked
from start to finish, and would definitely not hesitate in watching it
This is one of those films that has it all, intricate and well formed plot, likable main character superbly played by Cary grant, and a magnificent all round cast.
The chase of Thornhill from place to place, as he in turn is chasing the man he's been mistaken for, keeps you occupied and attentive, waiting for each new problem, new twist in the tale that arrives as Thornhill proceeds.
The direction and settings for each scene were sublime, including a fantastic piece of camera work when grant's character gets dropped off in the middle of nowhere by bus to meet the elusive George kaplan. The shot begins with him getting off the bus, and switches to a wide view of the emptiness and bleakness of his current surrounds, as the bus pulls out of view. Then it switches to grant, with the road running next to him, into the distance. The versatility of the direction and camera-work is something sometimes lacking from films, and certainly stands out in this one.
The locations were perfectly chosen, from the UN building in new york, to mount Rushmore for the climax. The grandeur of the background only serves to enhance the experience.
As far as favourite scenes go, I'd have to go for the dining car on the train, with the banter showing the attraction between thornhill and Kendall, or perhaps the auction room scene, an inspired way to evade capture by thornhill's pursuers.
Apart from me being a film geek, north by northwest gives you a fulfilling ride through the frustrations and experiences of Thornhill as he is mistaken for a spy. Wit and humour pepper the dialogue, making you laugh and smile, with Cary grants rough charm accentuating everything.
Surely as close to film perfection as it gets. A must see.
This is probably the best loved of all Hitchcock's films and it is also
one of his finest. It is a particularly daft comedy-thriller in that
the plot hinges on a series of improbable events and it is hugely
entertaining, full of classic set pieces. Cary Grant is the suave,
debonair hero who finds himself clinging to a man with a knife in his
back in the lobby of the United Nations Building. When he goes on the
run, determined to find out who framed him, it isn't just the
authorities who are after him but the villains as well. When he meets a
leggy blonde on a train, (what is it with Hitchcock and trains?), she
is not all that she seems. Eva Marie Saint plays her with an easy-going
sexiness that makes her character very likable. And Grant has so much
charm he gets away with playing Jessie Royce Landis' son when, in
reality, she was only eight years his senior.
The villains are James Mason and Martin Landau but they aren't given enough to do and as villains they don't feel threatening. What is threatening is the crop-dusting plane that appears out of an empty blue sky to chase Grant around some vast open spaces. And later, when Grant and Saint are chased over the faces on Mount Rushmore, it's our familiarity with the locations that heightens the tension. In the end the McGuffin, as Hitchcock called the device that held the plot in place, hardly matters. His genius is that he makes you care about the inconsequential things. This is a great comedy-thriller.
"North By Northwest" is probably well.. many things! Probably the best mistaken identity film ever made, the film with the most exciting chase sequences (Man vs. plane!), the most awesome set pieces made (Mount Rushmore!) the funniest "goof" on screen (kid holding his ears when the gun goes off!) and probably my favorite Hitchcock movie ever. Cary Grant is just amazing in this totally insane plot of mild-mannered ad executive getting thrust into a ridiculous game of underworld espionage, where he's forced to run from planes, gets tied up in a drunk driving rap, is nearly run over by a semi AND has to fight off James Mason and Martin Landau! Ah well, if you're gunning for a blonde as smoking as Eva Marie-Saint, wouldn't you? A lot of this is so over the top to be taken totally seriously, and mostly it's just pure popcorn fun. And cinema doesn't get any better or snarkier then the auction scene. A must see, if you're foolish enough for not having seen it yet.
This is a great movie and while the direction, locations, acting and editing are fun they are second to one of the best film scores in movie history. Bernard Hermann is a musical master and genius and there has not been anyone before or since that compares to his consistent creativity and this is one of his best. Listen to the music from the first opening credits to the scene on the streets and you will hear some of the best compositions since Stravinsky and Beethoven. (He also did "Psycho", "Twilight Zone" and so many other fabulous scores.) You may think that John Williams music is great, and he is, including all the latest Harry Potter films, but the only thing that he did that comes close to Bernard Hermann is his music for ET, the motor cycle chase in Indiana Jones III, Duel of the Fates and the Droid battle in Star Wars I. Hans Zimmerman, another great film scorer, has tremndous creativity, often more than John Williams, but anything he did and, for that matter, anyone else to date, has never been better than Bernard Hermann; and this movie is one of his best. An essential ingredient to every great movie is an even better musical score and this one of the best examples of this. Musically, previous to Bernard Hermann was Max Steiner, who wrote the score for "Gone With The Wind", and before him was the most creative genius in all of film history, Charles Chaplin (who wrote, directed, acted, and scored all of his films! An unheard of feat these days!). See this movie but also listen to the music and you will hear one the best scores of all time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Great roller coaster ride of a movie with a few minor flaws. First, I
can't imagine a more inept criminal justice system than in Glen Cove:
(a) cops crashing their car into a fleeing drunk driver (b) detectives
that easily could have exposed the phony Mrs. Townsend (hard to believe
they did not already know that the real one was deceased) with a few
basic checks, such as the supposed arrival of Thornhill by taxi, his
companions at the Oak Bar, the time and circumstances of the theft of
the Mercedes, the party guest list, etc. (c) a lawyer letting his
client without objection to go to trial on felony charges only one day
after the preliminary hearing, and (d) a judge permitting such a quick
trial, then letting Thornhill out on bail if his story was supposedly
so phony. Second, the scene involving the "United States Intelligence
Agency" (staying so secret by being conveniently plopped right in the
middle of the National Mall with the Capitol background shot) could
have been deleted, leaving the mystery of Kaplan's identity for later
resolution; the plot would have been enhanced that much more. Third,
the scene in the Chicago train station with the cops checking all the
red caps was a bit of a stretch; my recollection of 1950's America was
that most of them were of a different ethnicity than that shown in the
But in spite of these and the many other minor flaws and goofs that have been well documented, this is still a great film with superb acting, direction, photography, overall plot and suspense that has aged well, like fine wine. I especially liked the little non-verbal nuances, such as: (a) the expression exchange between Thornhill and the other man shaving in the train station, (b) the looks of skepticism by the New York state cop to Eve Kendall, (c) the flabbergasted look by the Chicago cop when Thornhill is suddenly whisked away by the professor at the airport, and (d) Thornhill looking at the farmer (thinking he is Kaplan) across the road, waiting for him to make the first move. The little snippets of humor in the middle of normally suspenseful or dramatic scenes further added to the enjoyment of viewing the film. How many other cops would admonish a murder suspect with "you ought to be ashamed of yourself?" Well worth the rental and viewing time for a good entertainment escape.
To summarise, let's just say this is over two hours long and yet seems
to last only minutes. You just wish it were longer.
And all the clichés in it were there for the first time: we've just seen them so many times since. I think it was in his conversations with Truffaut that Hitchcock said that, when a character is on the run in a film, he is always shown as walking down rain-washed cobbled streets, hiding in the night, but Hitchcock wanted to change all that and make it as light as possible, hence the crop-duster scene ... as every director has done ever since.
Back-projection has never been that good in Hitchcock's films, I'm sorry to say. I think that film-goers were just expected to accept it at the time. But I think the special effects in the finale (now where was it set?) are superb, and I really feel that the actors and stand-ins are really there (I was surprised it wasn't actually filmed there) ... apart from the studio inserts, that is.
But the plot is entirely original (or so I believe, but you always find something in the archives ...); Lehman's lines are very witty (and sexy!); the casting is superb (Grant never turned in a bad performance, and Landau, Mason and, especially, Carroll, setting himself up for his long-term role in his later acting career, are outstanding); and, like all Hitchcock's films, it's a fine comedy (and Psycho is the biggest joke of all). So why do all the critics always favour Vertigo, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, The Trouble with Harry or Psycho?
Well, North by Northwest is my favourite Hitchcock anyway.
And I'm sure I don't have to mention Herrmann's massive contribution.
In fact, my only objection is James Mason's cardigan. I find that so irritating!
|Page 6 of 53:||               |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|