In a decrepit South American village, four men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.In a decrepit South American village, four men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.In a decrepit South American village, four men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.
One of the greatest movies ever made
This movie is astonishing, a gritty story filmed in an ultra-real style that relies simply on the beauty of lighting and film to achieve its stunning effects. It seems from another world, which in a way, it is. The acting is superb: Montand's Mario is full of jerky movements and intense impulses but always maintains his Gallic savoir-faire, while Charles Vanel as Jo brings, at first at least, a type of macho to the screen that modern movie-makers simply do not comprehend. The rest of the cast, especially the camp chief, Luigi, and Peter van Eyck as Bimba are incredible, as is Vera Clouzot who is incomprehensibly but believably upbeat and innocent - and totally gorgeous - in the midst of the hellhole of a town they're all stuck in. Clouzot's directing is flawless - I don't think anyone has ever squeezed more tension with just a few essential scene elements. The trucks wheeze and grunt as well as they ever have in the movies - the only comparison is Spielberg's early gem, "The Duel", but Clouzot's automotive cinematics outdo even Spielberg. The stripped down existentialism of the characters, the starkness of their shared dilemma, the grim and grimy scenery, and the cinematography itself are all of a piece. The latter is what elevates this movie to the very top rank, including some of the most dramatic and effective black and white shooting I've ever seen. Yet it never becomes mannered or gratuitous - it is orchestrated with the rise - and rise! - of tension in the film. The final scene takes on a surreal as opposed to ultra-realistic quality that has its own logic. One last word about the acting - we don't see anything like it anymore. The self-conscious mannerism of method acting (which has had its own triumphs) and the toxic awareness of everyone from the actors to the audience, the camera, directors, etc. that each actor is a celebrity and potential artiste, has ruined that conviction that actors were once larger than life people before they went on-screen, that they came to acting as an outcome of living rough, unadorned, and yet imaginative lives as opposed to shooting for fame and fortune and celebrity within an artificial corporate star-making incubator.
- Oct 6, 2005
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