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'Rififi' (1955)

Jules Dassin's 1950s Noir thriller is set in Paris and right from the outset, we are transported into this dark world of "hoods" where loveable rogues and femme fatales dance, drink smoke and plot cunning plans to rob jewelers and banks.

The film centres around Tony, Jo and Mario who plot to commit the perfect crime. The first and third acts are the human, emotional elements where we see families, lost lovers, loneliness and regret. This, in turn, explains why the characters act like they do. But what is remarkable about this film is the second act that features the heist scene. During this scene, we hear creaks, screwdrivers, drills, sighs, coughs, knocks, footsteps; but there is not a word spoken, nor a hint of music for around half an hour (a quarter of the film's running time). This scene where we see the characters carry out their cunning plan is surely one of the most tense, daring and captivating scenes in noir cinema. It's a huge compliment to Dassin's craft that an audience can remain so hypnotized and charmed by this eerily gratifying sequence, the likes of which are few and far between in today's cinema.

The amount of films that seem to have directly benefited from Rififi are endless. It reminded me of Reservoir Dogs, The Killing, The Sting, Ocean's Eleven and perhaps even HEAT and Mission Impossible. That should be enough to note how inspirational and influential this movie is.

The main message may be an often repeated one, which seems to be that crime doesn't pay, but the way in which it is told (not least from Jo's wife who claims that Jo's poverty stricken friends who didn't turn to crime are the real tough guys) sets it apart from others. The fact that it doesn't follow the glorification of crime that other heist / noir movies can sometimes do is also a huge bonus.

There are flaws. It may have borrowed certain aspects from 'The Asphalt Jungle', and the editing in some scenes is far from perfect, with some scenes cutting rather abruptly, but surely we can forgive that for a film that is over 60 years old.

Rififi is a must see.