Madison Avenue advertising man Roger Thornhill finds himself thrust into the world of spies when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. Foreign spy Philip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard try to eliminate him but when Thornhill tries to make sense of the case, he is framed for murder. Now on the run from the police, he manages to board the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago where he meets a beautiful blond, Eve Kendall, who helps him to evade the authorities. His world is turned upside down yet again when he learns that Eve isn't the innocent bystander he thought she was. Not all is as it seems however, leading to a dramatic rescue and escape at the top of Mt. Rushmore. Written by
With everything you expect from Hitchcock and more, "North By Northwest" is terrific entertainment from the master. There are interesting characters, an exciting story with intrigue and suspense, lots of fine photography, and some of Hitchcock's best-known set pieces. It's capped off by a fine Bernard Herrmann score that is almost as good as the one he wrote later for "Psycho".
Cary Grant may be the ideal Hitchcock actor, and he is a big part of making this such great fun. As one of the man-on-the-run characters that Hitchcock loved to make movies about, Grant is entertaining and believable, maintaining good humor even as he tries to work his way out of a series of desperate situations. The other stars, James Mason and Eva Marie Saint, also are very good, and the supporting roles are all filled by good character actors.
The story is one of Hitchcock's most exciting. It's slightly longer than usual, and it occasionally stretches credibility, but it all goes by quickly because there is always something interesting going on, and there is also plenty to look at. Whether using the famous landmarks or using more everyday settings, there is always lots of good detail, and the settings complement the story nicely. At times the plot becomes somewhat fanciful, but probably deliberately so, for it only emphasizes Hitchcock's mastery of technique that he can have his characters do almost anything and make you believe it at the time.
With everything that characterizes Hitchcock at his very best, this fully deserves its reputation as one of the finest films by him or any other director. You can watch it several times and still find it just as entertaining.
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