Review 258: North by Northwest (1959)
I won’t make it through all of Hitchcock’s films this year, but I’m trying to watch the ones I can. Nevertheless, I was determined to see North by Northwest this week as I am saving Psycho and The Birds for October. I enjoyed most of the film, but felt is a little too long. However, Hitchcock does some amazing stuff in this film that left me wanting to see the making of it. I give North by Northwest the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy.
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is an advertising executive in New York that gets sucked into the world of spies. He is confused by a foreign spy as a US spy putting this ordinary man in an extremely unusual situation. His life is slowly flipped upside down as he tries to prove he isn’t who they think he is.
I don’t believe I’ve seen any of Grant’s films before this one. The reality is I actually went into this after watching Rear Window and Vertigo so I was expecting Jimmy Stewart to be in it. I was a little disappointed that Thornhill wasn’t Stewart, but Grant did a solid job. The female lead is Eva Marie Saint who was also new to me. There are a couple of moments where she reacts in ways that I didn’t expect. Sometimes there is a bit of a delay with her reaction and later she seems almost like a different character.
Dude with a spy problem
Early in the film, the foreign spies attempt to kill Thornhill by staging a drunken accident. Thornhill, no stranger to alcohol, manages to keep the car from going off the cliff. We then get to see the first drunken car chase that I can recall. It’s pretty funny as the camera shows Thornhill’s face which is going through various stages of drunkenness. It then cuts forward to see all the close calls that Thornhill is encountering and then back to show the villains closing in. It’s a pretty crazy sequence and shows how out of place Thornhill is. In spy films the car chase wouldn’t have any comedy like this, but it works to show that this isn’t the usual spy film.
It’s hard not giving the Must See rating to a Hitchcock film. However, I much preferred Rear Window and Vertigo. I would have liked North by Northwest to be just a little shorter. It did feel like it dragged a little bit, but still definitely worth a watch.