North by Northwest

Bomb Rating: 

Watching this 1959 action thriller directed by that bald, pudgy English guy Alfred Hitchcock, one understands why this genre has changed so much. Having to watch Cary Grant for two hours and fifteen minutes is not all that different from having to endure a holiday visit from an effete, retired uncle. He whines about how everything isn't going his way. You hope to God he doesn't touch you. He's old. He's suspiciously tan. He's built like Pee Wee Herman.

In an action thriller you just kind of hope Cary doesn't get his ass kicked by a roving band of asthmatic geriatrics. This leaves Roger Thornhill (Grant) to navigate Hitchcock's typical mistaken-identity plot using nothing but his brain. So what's the first thing he does? He allows two thugs to muscle him out of a crowded restaurant at the beginning of the film without so much as a struggle -- one yell for help and the movie is over.

This leads to a series of mishaps because a bad guy named Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) is convinced that Thornhill is a government agent. Along with his assistant, Lurch/Leonard (Martin Landau), Vandamm tries to have Thornhill killed. On the run, Roger gets into all kinds of trouble, mostly because -- apparently lacking anything better to do -- he searches haphazardly for the agent he's assumed to be. Roger, in his quest to rectify the case of mistaken identity, assumes the agent's name and all but uses the agent's credit cards, adopts the agent's dog and sleeps with the agent's wife. Eventually, Roger meets a stranger on a train, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). Eve thinks Roger is just the bomb, which either indicates that Eve has a thing for wispy old men or that her motives are suspect.

The famous ending of this film takes place at Mount Rushmore and looks more like a tourist advertisement for South Dakota. If only more stupid tourists would play on monuments like Roger, Eve and Leonard, the rest of us could enjoy our National Parks unfettered.

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