The Wrong Man

The Wrong Man ★★★½

Unlike what the title might suggest, this is not another of Hitch's classic "man-on-the-run" type deals and it's certainly not a thriller. This is more along the lines of a "true crime" drama, or maybe "true innocence" would be a more appropriate label?

The Wrong Man is based on true events and details the process by which an innocent man is accused, arrested, put on trial and, eventually... well, let's not spoil it. The point is, the focus is on the sense of injustice toward this man by a series of coincidences, and all the tragedy that befalls him/his family as a result.

Hitch was clearly trying for a different approach here. The premise and its execution are considerably more grounded - you won't find any chases or fights or epic set pieces. It's a slow-burning dramatic affair, beautifully shot and carefully paced. I enjoyed it a fair amount, even though I don't think it's entirely successful. I think Hitch's intent was to put the audience in the shoes of this man and make them feel what he feels; I garner this from how deliberately he takes us through every step of the process of his arrest - even the tedious details. Some of the camera work is quite experimental here as well: one sequence involves quick cuts (at least for the time), moving back and forth between our protagonist as he glances or paces around the room and the different corners of his enclosed space, later having the camera spin around his face and increase in a dizzying frenzy; when he's moved we're given a POV shot of the handcuffs being brought down on his wrists; and there's a wonderful shot where he enters a new cell and the camera moves forward in through the peephole, focusing on his expression, and then back out again. It's all very slow, but also very deliberate. Collectively, the entire sequence depicting this process is perhaps not quite as effective as intended, but it's nonetheless beautifully shot (and easy to appreciate, for those interested in the technical side of Hitchcock's films).

There are greater successes here though. I'd like to keep it vague, so as not to move into spoiler territory, but I think that once the tension becomes a bit more apparent and a more psychological angle is brought in the film is more compelling. There's a particularly excellent scene that involves a brush and a mirror, which I thought was very effective.

Towards the end, we drift more into courtroom territory and there's a bit of repetition before things fizzle out, followed by some on-screen text depicting your classic "where they are now". The entire narrative structure feels a bit disjointed, with no single focus within the frame of the central premise, and it kind of see-saws in terms of pulling the audience in and having them drum their fingers. Nevertheless, Hitch shot for something different and the result isn't bad; it's just more interesting than engrossing. I appreciate what he was going for and I think it's worth a look for any fan of his work.

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