Sunday, February 25, 2007

North by Northwest

North by Northwest; thriller / comedy, USA, 1959; D: Alfred Hitchcock, S: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis, Martin Landau

New York. Advertising executive Roger Thornhill accidentally lifts his hand to make a call in a hotel just when the concierge was asking for a George Kaplan. This leads to a group of spies to think that Roger is actually Kaplan, a CIA agent. Roger gets kidnapped by that gang of spies led by Philip Vandamm and narrowly manages to save his life when they let him drive a car drunk near a cliff. Roger escapes, but must find Kaplan in order to clear himself of a murder inside the UN building for which the police thinks he committed. Following Kaplan to Chicago without any skills or resources, Roger is helped by beautiful Eve Kendall. But Eve is actually working for Vandamm, who is planning to smuggle a secret microfilm. After meeting a spymaster Professor, Roger finds out that Kaplan was just made up to confuse Vandamm - and that Eve is actually an agent working for the government and spying on Vandamm. After a showdown at Mount Rushmore, Roger saves Eve and defeats Vandamm.

"North by Northwest" is one of the most famous films from Alfred Hitchcock's career, but not one of his best ones - in fact, it looks more like three unconnected stories in search for a film. Cary Grant is once again excellent in his role, Hitchcock's style is light-hearted, but still strong and sharp, and although the plot seems complicated, it actually has logic and works in nice manner of the director's old theme of mistaken identity and spoof of 'Cold War' spy paranoia. Not only that, there are some classic scenes present in here, most noticeably the excellent one with the crop duster plane attacking Roger in the middle of nowhere, as well as some "unknown" ones that are equally good, like the one where Roger was forcefully drunk by the spies and made drive a car near the cliff in order have an "accident", but managed to save himself - and get arrested by cops who thought he was a drunken driver. Still, the flaws undermine some of the efforts. In a lot of the time the jokes seem forced, the feeling of amazement during watching doesn't manifest up completely, and a lot of plot twists seem illogical (why would Roger, after an ambassador got stabbed and fell into his arms, pull the knife out of his back and hold it up high in the air (!) so that everyone around him would think he was the murderer?). "North by Northwest" is a quality piece of film making with a lot of virtues, but just not done the right way.


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