North by Northwest

North by Northwest ★★★★★

Part of Dastardly Difficult December: film nr.68

A benchmark in the action/adventure genre, crafted by one of cinema's masters.

I remembered next no to nothing from this film, apart from its iconic final sequence. It is therefore that I'm still reeling from being transported 50 years back and being swept along on this tale of mistaken identity, romance and espionage.

Hitchcock is of course know as the master of suspense, yet this is perhaps his least suspenseful film. It is, on the other hand, a very exciting adventure filled with the easy charm, class and simplicity of days gone by. I love the fact that practically from the get go, Hitchcock gives us one up on his protagonist. He understands the effect of this so well. By not keeping us completely in the dark and actually giving us more information our hero is getting, we are involved, seeing him stumble in the dark dreading what wrong choice he'll make next.

Cary Grant gives his role the perfect amount of charm and cheese, making for a very likable hero. I was already smitten by Eva Marie Saint when I first saw her in On the Waterfront and here she is stunning. Granted, her efforts as femme fatale are far more effective than her damsel in distress performance in the final act, but overall she is a joy to behold.

The plot is stretched thin beyond belief as the running time is just a tad too long, but I didn't mind as I just kept wanting to see what Hitchcock would come up with next. He uses clever editing and kinetic camera work to create suspense and excitement. In that respect he was far ahead of his time. He has also created some fantastic action sequences in this film, with the Mount Rushmore finale being the absolute highlight. It is just phenomenally shot and hardly betrays its age.

For modern watchers there is nothing new to find here as the story feels like it's been done to death. Sure, but to a certain degree it started here, with this film and every blockbuster adventure film of this kind will feel this breathing down its neck. And rightly so as this feels like a seminal piece of filmmaking in almost every aspect. When I watch this I see Spielberg, Fincher and DePalma. It is simply that influential and it is simply that good.

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