Thomas "Babe" Levy, whose brother Henry James "Doc" Levy is an oil business executive, is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Columbia University. He is also training as a marathon runner. Babe is paying homage to his deceased father, H.B. Levy, in pursuing the same studies as he, the father who committed suicide while being under investigation in the Communist witch hunts. Babe's work does not sit well with Doc who wants Babe to move on with his life. While at Columbia, Babe meets and begins to date Elsa Opel, a foreign exchange student also in History. While out for a walk in Central Park late one night, Babe and Elsa are mugged, the unusual aspect of it being that their attackers were men in suits. Babe will learn that the mugging was not a random attack after someone close to Babe is found murdered, the deceased whom was not whom he purported to be. From here, Babe is thrown into an international conspiracy concerning Nazi war criminal Christian Szell in hiding, and a large cache of ...Written by
Dr. Szell is supposed to be living in Uruguay before going to New York. We see shots of what is supposed to be Uruguay which show people traveling in canoes through the jungle, but in Uruguay there is no jungle. See more »
[Szell prepares to torture Babe a second time]
Oh, please don't worry. I'm not going into that cavity. That nerve's already dying. A live, freshly-cut nerve is infinitely more sensitive. So I'll just drill into a healthy tooth until I reach the pulp. Unless, of course, you can tell me that it's safe.
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The ending credits scroll with Babe's jogging route as a backdrop. See more »
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.
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