Anthony's Film Review

North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest is simply a true suspense classic...

Let me say this right now. If you love suspense films, North by Northwest is a film that you must see before you die. Or if you just see one movie that simultaneously presents the masterful direction of Alfred Hitchcock and a memorable performance by Cary Grant, then you should see North by Northwest. These are just two reasons to see this movie. I'm sure there are plenty more that suggest the same thing: North by Northwest is really that good.

It begins with a great setup. Cary Grant plays Roger O. Thornhill, an advertising executive who walks into the wrong place at the wrong time. As he is meeting some acquaintances, two strange men take Roger to a car. He is driven to a mansion where he meets another total stranger. The whole time, Roger is wondering what is going on. Then it becomes clear. It's a case of mistaken identity, as the men refer to Roger as George Kaplan. Following this mishap, Roger is thrust into another situation that could either cost him his life or his freedom.

Just by watching this first part of the film play out, you can see how Hitchcock generates suspense. He does it in a stepwise manner. He first presents details that suggest the possibility of something bad happening. After that, he throws in a few close calls for the main character. As a final step, he reels in the worst scenario that hints at the possibility of even worse things to come. Then there is the element of surprise when things show up unexpectedly. The overall effect is fear of the unknown. That's the definition of suspense.

Even so, Roger is not entirely alone. During an escape on a train, he meets the lovely Eva Kendall, played by Eva Marie Saint. He is immediately drawn to her, just as she is drawn to him. Let's not forget that Hitchcock can direct romance just as well as his trademark of suspense. Even so, you might wonder if she has any hidden agendas. When you have suspense buidling up in the ways I've just described, you can't help but question everything you see.

From that point, it gets better. Roger continues to go from one point to another while eluding anyone who could stop him. This includes a famous scene with murderous attempts by a cropdusting plane. The suspense slowly becomes greater as the stakes get higher. Roger soon learns more about the situation he's in, finally making sense of it all. The intrigue leads up to an unforgettable climax in the shadows of Mount Rushmore.

It's not just the suspense that's flawlessly crafted. It's also the story. Every scene, twist, and turn follows a logical progression from the preceding moment. Furthermore, the cast was well chosen. Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint deliver great performances as do James Mason and Martin Landau as enemy spies. And when you have Alfred Hitchcock at the helm, you can count on him tightening the elements into one solid whole. Because of him and everyone involved, North by Northwest is truly a classic in American cinema.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about North by Northwest, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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