North By Northwest

"Excellent"

North By Northwest Review


It was with slight disappointment and definite surprise that I found, after years of intending to see it, Hitchcock's North by Northwest coming in just under the top tier of his films. Watching Cary Grant hustle through a cross-country wrongly-accused thriller isn't a bore, of course, but I felt the curious sensation of reacting to the film through a series of comparisons, trying to figure out where it fits on the Hitchcock scale: It's not as disturbing as Psycho, not as suspenseful as Rear Window, not as mind-boggling as Vertigo. Then again, Cary Grant's Roger Thornhill (who has the misfortune to share his name with a made-up spy) is an ad exec who goes on the lamb with improvised gusto, even picking up a mystery woman as he hides on a cross-country train -- so it is, at least, a lot manlier than To Catch a Thief.

It's a lot more than that, too. I don't mean to speak ill of the film -- in fact, North by Northwest is a epitome of craft and style. When a critic wistfully refers to a movie like The Fugitive or The Bourne Identity as "good old-fashioned entertainment," there's a good chance that this is the movie they recall. It has Cold War intrigue without gadgets or jargon; it has romance that blends in with that intrigue, rather than jogging alongside it.

Do I need to explain who Roger Thornhill is, apart from that he's played by Cary Grant? Do I need to note that, as such, Thornhill embodies the smoothest machismo possible, yet, when mistaken for an international spy, displays enough regular-guy confusion that we identify with him more than our own personal and flaccid machismo levels should ever allow? That Thornhill's courtship of mystery woman Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) is enormous fun to watch -- and surprisingly sexy, for 1959? Or for whenever, come to that.

What, then, with all of this smoothness and sexiness running about, limits the film for me? It may be that, more so than almost any of the major Hitchcock thrillers, North by Northwest relies on the entanglement of action and geography more than character and psychology: Its most iconic moments are Grant dodging that famous crop-duster in the middle of nowhere, and the climactic tussle on Mount Rushmore. Even if you've seen bits of them on a dozen clip shows before watching the movie all the way through, these sequences deliver. But Grant is so winning -- so pleasureable to watch -- that the movie lacks sense of true danger. You never find yourself doubting that Grant, er, Thornhill will survive.

It's difficult to believe that Jimmy Stewart will meet an untimely end in Hitchcock's movies, too, but there's something particularly unstoppable about Cary Grant. Look at the way Thornhill orders up freshly-pressed slacks when he's hiding out in a hotel room with Eve; this is not a man who will lose his belt or his cufflinks, much less his own life.

That's part of the fun, of course -- and there is a lot of that elusive "fun" all through North by Northwest. It's just not the kind of fun that haunts you days later; you remember the trip, not the destination.

Run, Cary, run!



North By Northwest

Facts and Figures

Run time: 136 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 26th September 1959

Box Office Worldwide: $13.3M

Budget: $4M

Distributed by: Turner Entertainment

Production compaines: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 62

IMDB: 8.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Roger O. Thornhill, as Eve Kendall, as Phillip Vandamm, as Clara Thornhill, Philip Coolidge as Dr. Cross, Doreen Lang as Maggie - Thornhill's Secretary, as Vandamm's Sister aka Mrs. Townsend, Leo G. Carroll as The Professor, as Lester Townsend, Adam Williams as Valerian, as Victor Larrabee, Robert Ellenstein as Licht, as Leonard, as Auctioneer, Patrick McVey as Sergeant Flamm, Edward Binns as Captain Junket, Ken Lynch as Charley - Chicago Policeman, Nora Marlowe as Menacing housekeeper, Maudie Prickett as Hotel maid Elsie, as Ticket seller, Malcolm Atterbury as Man waiting for bus, Bess Flowers as Plaza Hotel lounge patron

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.