Movies that are slightly off.
They went up like men! They came down like animals!
North Africa, World War II. British soldiers on the brink of collapse push beyond endurance to struggle up a brutal incline. It's not a military objective. It's The Hill, a manmade instrument of torture, a tower of sand seared by a white-hot sun. And the troops' tormentors are not the enemy, but their own comrades-at-arms.
When surrounded by such excellence from a director whose standards never appeared to waver, The Hill feels like something of a forgotten classic. In terms of prison films this is one of the finest made, an unflinching look at not only life inside a wartime guardhouse but holding up a mirror to those deemed to be fighting the good cause.
It's clear from the beginning Lumet is not going to pull any punches with the use of racist language peppering the dialogue. Jackie, a British black man from the West Indies, is the one on the receiving end of the harsh insults thrown at him by bully Sergeant Williams. At first the temptation is to think the name calling is…
Like all of Sidney Lumet's earlier work, The Hill is a spectacular exercise in escalated tension and groundbreaking direction.
He knows exactly where to put the camera, how to move it, and when to cut. From the brilliant opening crane shot, to the fierce hand-held close-ups, Lumet sets up his scenes like he's the Mozart of cinema. And with the actors as his orchestra, and the camera as his baton, he digs into the minds and souls of his characters with razor-sharp intensity, leaving them broken, wild-eyed and shattered.
Lumet forces you to observe such huge amounts of physical and mental abuse that in the end you beg for the characters to abandon all reason and embrace the animal inside…
Thanks to Kevin for recommending this gem to me.
Yet another Lumet film that has left me stunned. Set in a North African military prison during World War II where tensions between prisoners and guards simmer to boiling point, this is a perfect companion piece to Lumet's earlier masterpiece, 12 Angry Men. Moving out of the confines of a single room setting (although not too far) this felt like 12 Angry Men with a little more visual flair and just like that earlier work, this is a film which is all about the performaces. The cast are fantastic, giving stellar performances all round (with standouts from Harry Andrews and Ossie Davis). But something has to be said for Sean Connery's…
Just a year after he played the iconic Bond and Lumet who was coming of The Pawnbroker team up to conjure a riveting story of mental disintegration both sides of the coin amidst the sweltering heat and using some stunning camera angles....Surely Kubrick was inspired whilst filming Full Metal Jacket.
This is a masterpiece of a master filmmaker.
Speechless, absolutely speechless. So simple but so complicated, technically stunning yet so straight forward it's near a dialogue piece like the equally brilliant similar film 12 Angry Men but it ambitiously and tireslessly roams all facets of the military prison. Every single department worked and works so crushingly effective, I can only imagine it's unseen-ness is due to its message rather than how it's told. Everything about it is familiarly unique and brutally honest, I don't think I've even been so beaten down and broken like that ending.
Do yourself a favour and watch The Hill immediately in the highest quality B&W attainable (as always). I wish I could say more about it but it's a struggle to be less gob-smacked at this point, I might try and write something more in the morning.
Essential Sidney Lumet that should be heralded along with all of his other undisputed masterpieces. This could so easily be a stale chamber play with little cinematic relevance, but Oswald Morris' active frame is in constant pursuit of exposing the pragmatic reality that simply watching these characters manipulate a physical space becomes demanding, all while a rather brilliant psychological power struggle shifts in all directions. It's an example of pitch-perfect casting where each performer depends on and elevates the other all while never attempting to embezzle the affection of the viewer. It shares much in common with Dog Day Afternoon in how quickly silence transforms into utter chaos, which is more greatly magnified here given the conservative surroundings. And I'm hard-pressed to think of films that convey a sense of unbearable heat more effectively than executed here.
Sidney Lumet is a terrific filmmaker that can do so much with so little. With The hill he delivered a solid drama with a brilliant cast. The hill is set during the second World War, and it boasts some impressive moments of action and drama that standout throughout the film. Lumet’s direction is great, and with the cast that he has at his disposal, he crafts a stunning war drama that is a steadily paced and lets the story unfold in such a way that with each frame you become more interested in what’s going on. Lumet Crafts a solid picture here, and it probably among his overlooked films, as when one will talk about his work, 12 Angry Me,…
366 Films in a Year
A riveting drama set a British military detention camp in North Africa during WWII. It’s a place where disobedient soldiers are sent to be broken down and rebuilt up again by being forced to endure grueling and intense punishment. Anyone one breaking the rules is forced to march up a manmade hill in the searing heat. An overzealous commanding officers pushes one of his charges to the brink of endurance and ends up causing his death. Things come to a boil when one man stands up against these inhuman practices and questions the strict adherence to following orders and outdated rules. Sidney Lumet is an amazing director and has a sizeable amount of…
"The Great Escape II"! Comparing that WWII prison drama to this one probably devalues the tension in this, because no matter how hard these guys have it being detained by their own army, they should at least be glad that they're not in a Nazi POW prison. Nevertheless, this film is ultimately a testament to just how hard war is, to where it drives soldiers to do some pretty rough stuff even to their own brethren. In all fairness, the guards are probably annoyed by their own prison of babysitting soldiers who weren't allowed to fight. As one can imagine, given that he is played by Sean Connery, getting into a fight is how the main character got locked up…
Often we see WWII films about American and British troops in German or Japanese POW camps, here we see something unique – British troops being detained in a British camp, and the treatment they receive is just as brutal if not more so. Lumet's direction is intimate and visceral getting the audience to feel every degree of excruciating heat and the film is brilliantly performed by all involved.
This masterpiece is one of the tensest films ever made. Great work from a superb ensemble cast. This is one of Connery's finest performances, but the film really belongs to Ian Hendry as a sadistic guard and Harry Andrews as his commander. This features one of the darkest, most hopeless endings I've ever seen.
"What better place to explore gay subtext than an all-male prison?"
One time watch
I love it when a movie sneaks up and wallops me. The Hill is Lumet in top form, crackling and uncompromising from first frame to last. The cast is uniformly excellent but the late great Ossie Davis is a revelation here. When his West Indian soldier finally snaps under the crushing racist indignity woven in the fabric of the British empire, it's difficult, heartbreaking, and essential viewing. Just wow.
Sidney Lumet's The Hill contains the claustrophobic intensity of 12 Angry Men with the devilishly slick aesthetic of Fail-Safe. The Hill follows five prisoners as they cope with the tyrannical Staff Williams and ultimately the establishment itself. The film's greatest strength stems from the exceptional portrayal of the many characters, each influencing the tilt of the story in unique ways. Lumet's camera captures the essence of the personalities perfectly, and his direction over the camp's activities is shockingly skillful at times. A much overlooked Lumet film but easily one of his finest. A must-see.
High-rated movies with very few views. Suggestions are welcome.
Originally a list made prior to Cannes 2014, now updated every mid-April.
This is every Palme d'Or nominee since the…