Thomas Pollock’s review published on Letterboxd:
Exploring Europe Film 2
I have heard nothing but good things about Le Samourai the past few months on here, and I have seen it pop on several top lists. While I really enjoyed the experience, I was a little underwhelmed due to the anticipation I had to it. Nevertheless, Le Samourai is a smart and quiet movie with a terrific anti-hero that would go on to inspire film characters like that of Drive.
The film opens up to a silent and darkly lit room where we meet hit man Jef Costello. His character is fascinating and definitely seeks our attention as to his motives and mentality. His dialogue is completely minimal and towards the end of the film there is almost a level of sympathy generated with his character. In the first half of the film we see this methodical and professional hit man who sits in his room like it is his throne- where he is in control. However, in the outside world he is more insignificant. Out in the world he is lost, which is why he seems to be a solemn person living alone in his dark apartment.
His love interest is when we see his character in a different light, and we see him more humanly. The way Jean Pierre Melville makes the story unfold was terrific. The scenes feel tense, and we witness one of the best chase sequences in cinema, that has been an influence on many films. What came to mind for me was the chase sequence in The French Connection to name one.
The only thing for me that I found the film lacking in was characterisation outside of Jef’s character. This is probably something to be appreciated on repeat viewings, but I found the other characters a little lacking in personality, and it mad the film a little narrow for me. However, I love the scene when Jef is in a confrontation with one of the men who hired him- that scene had plenty of character.
Overall, this is a highly influential film, and Jean-Pierre Melville shows that he is a great director from the opening scene. He uses the potential of film as a visual medium and presents us the story with terrific lighting and mise-en-scene and an almost silent main character. Definitely a well worth watching!