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North by Northwest

3- North by Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1959)

Another brilliant film by Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest is a fast paced ambitious cold war spy action thriller. Roger Thornhill is a salesman who gets mistaken by foreign spies as George Caplan, an agent for the CIA who is tracking the spies. Then after being kidnapped by and escaping from the spies, Thornhill gets framed by the spies as a murderer and becomes public enemy number one. What ensues is a wild chase from New York to Mount Rushmore filled with twists and turns as more and more is revealed about the nature of these spies and Thornhill has to dodge the police and the spies pursuing him.

Hitchcock spins the complex web of secrets that make up the meat of this incredible and complex story masterfully. The use of dramatic irony (information that the audience knows but the characters do not) as it pertains to the identity of George Caplan was very effective. The film was in perpetual motion, paced flawlessly as the thrills never stop and the audience is constantly left on the edge of their seats. Every single shot in this movie was superbly and meticulously composed by the master auteur. There are some very impressive sequences in this film as well, with action set pieces in this film that are unbelievably well done, especially considering the time when the movie was made. The movie was also very well written, with great dialogue that feels organic and never bogs down the movie.

Cary Grant was a very effective and convincing protagonist, but it was Eva Marie Saint's performance as the sexy and mysterious Eve Kendall that steals the film in my opinion. Kendall is an incredibly complex and well developed character and Saint plays the role flawlessly. James Mason was also a very impressive antagonist as the cold, calculated, and intimidating foreign spy Phillip Vandamm.

The biggest takeaway from this film for me is just how new it feels. Many films from this time feel dated but not this one. The set pieces in this movie are some of the best ever put to film. The scene with the crop-duster in the farmland was unbelievable as was the fight/chase sequence on Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock truly pushed the boundaries of what was possible on film at that time and he does so marvelously.

Incredible action, non-stop thrills, an incredibly well written and complex story composed with technical superiority by one of the greatest auteurs in film history, North by Northwest is a masterpiece as are the other Hitchcock films I've reviewed. I'd probably rate it ahead of 39 Steps but slightly behind Rear Window, though still a phenomenal film that I absolutely loved.


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