At this point, I know what most of you are expecting. Bryce revisits another classic to remind you all just how incredible old movies can be. North by Northwest has all the trappings of old school Hollywood. Cary Grant. Alfred Hitchcock. Nominated for three Oscars (Writing, Art Direction, and Editing). The #100 ranked movie on IMDB. The #4 movie on AFI’s best thrills list. The #55 movie overall. Just sit back and prepare for an awesome experience, right?
Not so fast.
When rewatched it with the fam the other night, looking at it with fresh eyes, it suffered very much from the Citizen Kane effect for me. Citizen Kane is widely hailed as one of the best movies of all time. It certainly plays a pivotal role in the history of film making, and it pioneered many techniques that are common today. But as a film judged by the current standards? It’s not very good. It’s . . . pretty boring.
And so was North by Northwest.
I know. Even typing that makes me want to cringe, just because it’s flying in the face of so much tradition and respect. And I definitely respect the movie for its place in the development of modern thrillers. But if you try to stack it up against the more modern takes on the genre, it just is lacking across the board. The effects are bad. The plot is pretty pedestrian at times and predictable at others. The acting leaves a fair bit to be desired. It has not stood the test of time, and my kids were fairly blase about the whole thing.
In the end, I gave it a 6.5/10. Some of that might be a response to me remembering/expecting it to be incredible, but a whole ton is due to the fact that thrilling films have just moved on. The pacing is much faster now. The plots more dynamic. Compare Inception to North by Northwest. It’s no match. Of course, if you showed Inception to people fifty years ago, I don’t think they’d have a clue what to do with it.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. If you’re looking for a movie that informed later films and helps you understand the context and history of the genre, check this one out. But if you’re looking great classic movie to watch . . . I’d suggest starting elsewhere.
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