A case of mistaken identity leads a man to get swept up in a
government plot to stop a smuggling ring led by foreign spies.
North by Northwest (1959)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Ernest Lehman
Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason,
Martin Landau, Jessie Royce Landis, Leo G. Carroll
Oscar Nominations - Best Original Screenplay,
Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing
Alfred Hitchcock is a director whose work I've just barely begun to tap into. North by Northwest is considered one of his many masterpieces. It's a solid adventure thriller with an engaging plot and a host of great performances led by the always reliable Cary Grant. It's the ultimate worst case scenario for "wrong place, wrong time," and it's lasted over sixty years because of its intense script and Bernard Hermann's incredible score. Hitchcock is still known as the Master of Suspense, and the reason why is for films like this.
Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, an advertising executive who is mistaken for a government agent named Kaplan. He is kidnapped by foreign spies, interrogated, and nearly killed by these guys, prompting him to find the real Kaplan and straighten all this out. Roger ends up down a rabbit hole of government plots, antiques, assassinations, and an iconic cornfield scene. Along the way, he meets the lovely Eve Kendall (Saint), who is more than she appears. James Mason plays the villain, the enigmatic Phillip Vandamm, to slimy perfection. Overall, an exquisite cast and a pulse-pounding story.
My only gripe with the film is the abrupt, out of nowhere ending. In the midst of a tense scene, we cut away to a cheeseball "happily ever after" ending that gives us no resolution and seems so forced. I wouldn't be surprised if the studio cut this behind Hitchcock's back. If not, it's a bad editing decision. But the entire rest of the movie is great, so I'm marking it down as a win.