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|Index||173 reviews in total|
Schlesinger made a great action-suspense film and married it to the
artistry of unique talents
Hoffman was, by then, a dynamic, young and
incredibly versatile film actor with three Academy Award nominations
already under his belt for "The Graduate," "Midnight Cowboy," and
But the key to "Marathon Man" was the chemistry between its stars Perhaps one of the most gut-wrenching and most memorable scenes in the film comes when Hoffman is captured and tortured by Olivier who plays the role of a mean and vicious and sadistic Nazi war criminal, Christian Szell Olivier's performance resulted in a 1976 Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor
In 1945, Szell ran the experimental camp at Auschwitz where they called him the White Angel He was a dentist and could provide escape for any Jew who was willing to pay the price He started out with gold, naturally, but very quickly worked his way up to diamonds
As Szell saw the end early, he sneaked his brother into America with the diamonds And they were right here, in New York, in a safe deposit-box until Szell's brother got killed in a head-on collision with an oil truck
Uniquely built, and with a marvelous, rugged face, Roy Scheider, well known for his strong performances in "The French Connection," "Klute," and "Jaws," came on board as Hoffman's mysterious businessman brother, getting the rare chance to play a character that's both hero and villain Doc is a fascinating guy because he chooses to work out his problems in a much different way than Dustin's character does He was very touched and very moved by his father's death, but he abandoned all his hopes for whatever he intended to do and he became a spy, a killer, a very jaded personality
In doing something truly suspenseful, Schlesinger accomplished a film that's largely about fear and it's about pain and the infliction of pain because of fear The thrilling sensation of great expectations came on the 47th Street in the diamond district in New York, where Schlesinger gets the best of it
Marathon Man starts off rather slowly, and for the first hour at least, it
feels as if you're watching a human drama rather than a thriller. However,
unlike a lot of thrillers; Marathon Man uses this time to create characters
and establish the situation, which ultimately pays off later on in the film
when the movie really gets going. When the film does step on the gas, it is
as thrilling as any thriller you will ever see; Dustin Hoffman is subjected
to all sorts of things, most notably an excruciating torture sequence. This
scene is powerful and painful on it's own, but it is made more so by the
fact that we have already gotten to know the character and therefore we feel
sympathy for him, as well as cringing at the images we see on screen. That
scene alone is enough to propel the movie in the realms of greatness, as it
is simply one of the most powerful that cinema has ever given us; but this
movie is a hell of a lot more than just a torture sequence.
The plot revolves around a car crash that takes place in downtown New York. One of the men in this crash is the brother of the infamous Nazi war criminal, Szell, who has some diamonds hidden in a safety deposit box. From then on, many members of a US defence organisation, known as "The Division", begin turning up dead and soon after, Thomas Levy, a college student, obsessive runner and the brother of one of The Division's members, becomes embroiled in the plot. It is easy to see the parallels between the plot movie and World War 2, from the withered ex-Nazi (indicative of the state of the actual regime), to his enemies being American; the movie has world war 2 written all over it. The film is excellently directed throughout by John Schlesinger. Schlesinger, probably best known for "Midnight Cowboy" does a fantastic job of keeping the audience on the edge of their seat for the duration of the movie. A constant foreboding feel is created, and you're never truly sure of what will happen. This is exactly what you want in a thriller, as nobody likes it when they can predict what will happen next.
Dustin Hoffman takes the lead role of Thomas Levy. Dustin Hoffman is a fantastic actor, and he certainly gets to flex his acting muscles here, in a film which sees him go through all manner of unpleasant scenes and also hold up lots of relationships with various characters, as well as drawing sympathy from the audience to accent his situation. Roy Scheider (of Jaws fame) stars opposite Dustin Hoffman in the movie. Scheider doesn't get a great deal of screentime in the film, but he still manages to do good things with the time he does have. The third lead role, that of the Nazi war criminal, is taken by Lawrence Olivier, who is also a fantastic actor and gives a great performance in this film. He gives his character just the right atmosphere, and we can tell just by looking at the man that he is cold and uncaring, and also past it; which is the crux of his character.
The film ends with a spectacular sequence, which sees the movie and the two centrals characters come to a satisfying conclusion. The characters are the central theme in this movie, and had the movie have ended differently it could have unravelled everything that it had created, but the movie's end is absolutely perfect and does the entire movie justice. A brilliant piece of cinema.
Quite apart from the infamous torture scene, which I found extremely difficult to watch without howling in horror (actually that's a lie, I DID howl) this film is FULL of nervous tension that occasionally boils over - the way it's been done is masterful. The bouncing-ball scene in the darkened building should be utterly prosaic, but it really isn't - the way it's choreographed and shot brings such an air of menace and trepidation you'll be biting your nails off. There's much of a similar vein in 'Marathon Man', and although the storyline is sometimes almost buried through the relentless suffocating tension, it's extremely watchable (with a cushion to hide behind at certain points) and one of the greatest non-Hitchcock thrillers I've ever seen. Don't hesitate!
I have always found this to be a very entertaining, involving, taut
suspense movie with some very dramatic scenes. I've seen in three times
and liked it better each time, particularly since it's been available
on DVD which enhanced the sound from mono to stereo, and the 1.85:1
widescreen enhancing the cinematography.
I didn't find the infamous (this was quite a buzz when the film came out) dentist scene to be as terrifying as it was made up to be and the references to the McCarthy hearings are a bit annoying and typical of Hollywood director John Scheslinger. It's also a typical modern-day film in which the U.S government's police agencies are corrupt (oh, puhleeze, filmmakers - think of something new).
However, despite those negatives, the film is fascinating with no dry spots despite its two-hour length. There is a nice variety of action scenes and very interesting characters. Marthe Keller never looked better. Too bad she didn't make more movies in the U.S. Dustin Hoffman, as he did so well in the '70s, keeps your attention and Laurence Olivier is absolutely riveting. This is a terrific thriller, start to finish.
Suspense filled, is the only adequate description I can think of. The direction is bleak and taut, the movie's music theme is like a growing menace and the acting of the leads is peerless. The film's most famous scene, the dentist chair interrogation has become part of pop culture, and deservedly so. This, along with many other scenes, including the enemies breaking into the bathroom, are a masterful example of how to create almost unbearable tension on film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first saw MARATHON MAN in its initial theatrical release when I was 13 years old, and the years haven't diminished its power for me. Sure, the plot gets a little more convoluted than it absolutely has to be, but in a way it's because William Goldman's screen adaptation of his brilliant novel takes into account the all-too-human character flaws of his heroes and villains, and the mistakes people make when they're fearful and paranoid. While the performances are uniformly fine (with Roy Scheider deserving a place in The Suave Hall of Fame for his portrayal of Doc Levy, a.k.a. government agent "Scylla." If he hadn't been so charismatic and engaging, his murder in mid-film wouldn't have such impact, and the movie would suffer for it), I think the special secret ingredient that gives MARATHON MAN its punch is the atmosphere. The naturalistic, sometimes washed-out color palette almost lends the film a black-and-white film noir look. Almost every person in the film is angry, cynical, emotionally wounded, and/or generally negative in some way. And what really struck me was that on screen, it seems like chaos and disaster are exploding all over the world. Look at the riots and bombings taking place in France in early scenes with Doc and Janeway (nicely subtle homosexual subtext there, by the way). Also, if you listen carefully to newscasts in the background, you'll notice there's nothing but bad news: murders, suicides, all kinds of violence all over (including the "chicken" game between the old Jew and Szell's brother as the film begins). MARATHON MAN isn't a happy film -- even when our hero wins, he's already lost so much his victory seems hollow indeed -- but it never fails to grab and haunt me each time I watch it. If you love the film, you'll want to own the DVD not only for the superb letterboxed print, but also for the terrific extras, including both new and vintage making-of documentaries with Hoffman, Scheider, Keller, Goldman, producer Robert Evans and other major MM players, as well as rare rehearsal footage and the original theatrical trailer.
The high ratings for Marathon Man are no doubt focused on the substantial talent assembled to pull it off, and they succeed as long as one dispenses with every expectation of logic or common sense. Schlesinger builds substantial suspense, and there are plenty of satisfying scenes, but the plotting and story points are ridiculous beyond measure. This might not be a problem if it were any other type of picture, but the progressive unfolding of an initial puzzle to a somewhat sensible (or at least rational) set of revelations is one of the hallmarks of the government intelligence thriller. The story here, however, is so thin that virtually nothing happens for the entire first half of the picture, and the second half is really nothing more than one long chase sequence. The biggest problem is that the central objective of the action is precipitated by a murder that, if contemplated for more than about twenty seconds, reveals itself to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. And the illogical story points are not just structural. There are numerous details throughout that are obviously (and, to my mind, condescendingly) designed as mere conveniences for the the action, regardless of how inane or inexplicable they may be. The veneer of star power and sophisticated production values did not--for this viewer, at any rate--successfully obfuscate the movie's considerable flaws.
1970s movies are so cynical, aren't they? Dark, depressing, and often
grainy-looking and washed out. "Marathon Man" fits that description.
It's good, of course - very good - but it's not exactly a good time.
Know what I mean?
William Goldman, one of Hollywood's few celebrity screenwriters, wrote both the original novel and the script for this film version. I find him a bit overrated, but here he does a good job of elevating hack-level thriller material into a sort of art form. The beginning of the film is particularly well-written and intriguing, since it's full of creepy and cryptic events that are not immediately explained. But, alas, I find the ultimate explanation of these events to be rather prosaic and disappointing.
So, I think the movie's strengths lie in the acting and directing, more so than the story. Olivier and Scheider give particularly great performances, and Marthe Keller comes across as appropriately sweet and sexy (her big "secret," though, should be really easy for anyone to guess!) I'm a little less enamored of Dustin Hoffman, whose character is inexplicably nicknamed "Babe." He's just way too old to be a typical graduate student (almost forty years old, to be precise), and he simply doesn't have much charisma to me. Usually I like normal-looking, non-glamorous actors, but somehow Hoffman doesn't float my boat.
Still, it's hard not to sympathize with the poor guy while he's being pursued, beaten, tortured etc. The "dental horror" scene is still quite effective, though it's rather short; I was more impressed by the subsequent chase through the dark streets of NYC. (The city, by the way, looks like a hellish, crime-infested, debris-strewn pit in this movie - like it does in most 1970s productions!)
In the end, "Marathon Man" isn't quite another "French Connection," but it's got more than enough suspense to crush a lot of the dross that infests theaters today. It's worth watching just for the terrifying scene when the bad guys start tearing Hoffman's door off its hinges - it's good stuff.
John Schlesinger's 1976 classic about a graduate student in New York City who becomes the center of a mean old ex-Nazi war criminal dentist and the government's objective to throw him over. Dustin Hoffman provides us with an excellent performance as the 'Marathon Man'. He was almost forty when he played the role and with his acting skills he makes us believe he is actually a graduate student. Roy Scheider is perfect as Hoffman's crafty and slick older brother who works for the C.I.A. Scheider really does a lot with his role making him perhaps even the coolest character in the movie. Veteran Shakespearan actor Laurence Olivier gives an incredible performance as the evil ex-Nazi that rightfully earned him a Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor. John Schlesinger provides incendiary direction, and the screenplay is consistently engrossing and full of twists. If you are looking for one hell of a suspense flick with a lot of action you should definitely check out 'Marathon Man' at your local videostore. 'Marathon Man' should have earned Oscar nominations for -- Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role - Dustin Hoffman, Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Laurence Olivier, Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Roy Scheider, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Watch out for the creepy 'dentist' scene. Grade: B+
Dustin Hoffman looks in great shape playing a Columbia graduate student, still haunted by his father's suicide (and perhaps in training for the New York marathon), who gets mixed up by proxy in his nefarious older brother's activities; seems his sibling has been working secretly as a courier in stolen gems, and has run afoul of Szell, a.k.a. The White Angel, the most notorious Nazi war-criminal still alive. Director John Schlesinger exercises a gleefully nasty side here, staging some dental torture scenes that are just about impossible to watch, yet not all of the pieces in William Goldman's adaptation of his own bestseller fit accordingly; Schlesinger just presses ahead so that the story gaps won't be so noticeable. There's much zig-zagging across the continents at the beginning, with red herrings, street bombs, and character intricacies just swept under the carpet. We learn so little about Hoffman's brother (played by an equally fit Roy Scheider) that, by the film's climax, we still don't know whose side he was he on--or why his cohorts lost trust in him. Marthe Keller's German mystery beauty is another character muddle, a pretense of writer Goldman who was really out to stack this deck against Hoffman's runner. Laurence Olivier's knife-wielding Nazi beast is perplexing as well, alternating a steely coldness with an aged confusion (why, for instance, is he staking out jewelry stores just for today's market values--isn't the diamond trade this man's forte?). The film could have eased up a bit on the torture scenes (which aren't really suspenseful as much as they excruciating) and been a bit more clear-headed about the chess game taking place. It leaves a bushel of questions behind, though it is a handsome piece of work, well-cast and with an intrinsically satisfying finale. *** from ****
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