North by Northwest

North by Northwest ★★★★½

**Dinner with Hitchcock - Film 10**

After the dismal performance of Vertigo at the box office, it was time for Alfred Hitchcock to try something new, or rather, something classic. Armed with a studio mandated new lead in Cary Grant, Hitchcock created North by Northwest, the end all be all of wrong man films. The story follows Roger Thornhill, a high powered ad executive in New York who winds up getting mistaken for an international spy by the bad guys. As he travels across the country trying to prove his identity and clear his name, Roger meets the lovely and mysterious Eve Kendall, and plenty of danger.

Hitchcock isn't seeking to reinvent the wheel with North by Northwest, instead, he is taking what he knows best and crafting it into the strongest possible form. This is a wrong man story done right. All of the usual Hitchcock touches are there, witty humor, a strong blond, thinly veiled sexuality, a macguffin, and plenty of stunning shots and scenes. Grant is a good leading man, and while he doesn't quite match the levels that James Stewart did with the master of suspense, he still turns in a great performance and deftly manages the humor as well as the danger, acting as a sort of every man's James Bond. His femme fatale comes in the form of Eva Marie Saint, delivering an understated, seductive performance as Eve. Of course, not everyone loves our hero, trying to kill him is Phillip Vandamm, played by the wonderfully sinister James Mason, and backed up by the clearly deranged Leonard, played by Martin Landau.

A great cast to be sure, but the locations really steal this movie. From the crowded streets of NYC to the desolate farmland of Illinois, all the way up to the cold, unblinking facade of Mount Rushmore, Hitchcock takes us on quite the trip in this film, and he gets the most out of every single place. The film's most famous set piece, the crop duster scene, is a visual feast, and the lead up as Roger waits in the middle of nowhere is quite funny and suspenseful at the same time. Other scenes of note take place in a stuffy auction room, which is the setting for the film's funniest and most clever moment, and of course the heart-pounding climax atop Rushmore.

North by Northwest might not break new ground, but after over thirty years of making films, it is a joy to see Hitchcock roll up his sleeves and use his experience to craft the perfect Hitchcockian movie. The film has all the smarts, laughs, and thrills you could possibly want from a Hitchcock picture, and carries them all across a massive expanse of settings. The story does lag a little near the end, and probably could have used a tiny bit of shortening. However, from the wonderful opening credits, backed by yet another fantastic Bernard Herrmann score, to the sweat inducing ending, North by Northwest is an excellently made, fun thrill ride that won't even come close to steering you in the wrong direction.

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