Friday, 13 March 2015

Film Review - North by Northwest (1959)

Fig.1 North by Northwest (1959) Movie Poster

Alfred Hitchock's North by Northwest (1959) is an exciting mystery thriller as we remain unsure throughout as to why the main character, Roger O'Thornhill (Played by Cary Grant), is in so much danger from the outset. This gripping story has several twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat, but still has some moments of humor that keeps the experience somewhat light hearted. Bill Weber even goes as far as to say, in his review for Slant Magasine, that "The picture is hugely pleased with itself, but it's too funny and expertly calibrated to mind in the least." (Weber, 2008)

Fig.2 Roger being forced to drink

We do not need to wait long in the film before we start to question what is happening. Roger is forced into a series of events that are out of his control. Filmsite call the events that Roger encounters  "a perilous adventure for a man who is normally sheltered by his wealth and prestige." - (Filmsite, 2015). He himself has no idea what is happening, so it makes us realise that Hitchcock is purposely trying to play with our thoughts.  A persistent case of mistaken identity taunts Roger throughout and so may make modern audiences aware of a potential twist, something that would have been unfamiliar to the audience in 1959. A group of men, lead by Phillip Vandamm (Played by James Mason), confuse Roger and pressure him into doing certain things or being in certain places. They use Eve Kendall, played by Eva Marie Saint, almost against her will, to get Roger to take extreme measures, when it would be advisable not to.

Fig.3 Roger running away from the plane

Hitchcock uses his expertise magnificently throughout the entire film. Each shot he uses captures the intended mood brilliantly. The famous scene where Roger is running away from a plane that is clearly trying to kill, or at least injure him, would not be as memorable if it wasn't for Hitchcock's use of camera angles. During this scene he demonstrates the fear in Roger's eyes as the plane flies to and from the sky - This is a very tense scene. The constant transition of settings really demonstrate the lengths that Roger will go to discover the reasons behind the threat to his life and career. As the film progresses, however, and as more of the puzzle is being put together, Roger soon discovers Eve is more of an ally than a secret enemy. They work together well, both in terms of characters and actors. There is a great connection between the pair and so this makes their journeys more relatable. 

Fig. 4 Roger and Eve on Mount Rushmore

North by Northwest is a pure thriller that confuses you to the edge of your seat. Hitchcock's glorious camera direction matches the gripping, yet fun, tone of the movie and is a pioneer for all modern films of it's type. Kevin Carr summarises the film as a "well timed suspense, an overall mystery, a compelling cast and some brilliantly conceived scenes." - (Carr, 2011)

Illustration List:
Fig.1 North by Northwest (1959) Movie Poster (Accessed 13/03/2015)

Fig.2 Roger being forced to drink - (Accessed 13/03/2015)

Fig.3 Roger running away from the plane -  (Accessed 13/03/2015)

Fig. 4 Roger and Eve on Mount Rushmore -  (Accessed 13/03/2015)

Carr, Kevin (2011) - North by Northwest - (Accessed 13/03/2015)

Filmsite (2015) - North by Northwest (1959) - (Accessed 13/03/2015)

Weber, Bill (2008) - North by Northwest -  (Accessed 13/03/2015)


  1. Good to see these reviews coming through now Dan! Another nicely written one, but once again, be careful of those spellings... you say the Roger is forced into doing 'curtain things' instead of 'certain things' for example!