If you like classic suspense movies with intrigue and cases of mistaken identity, Alfred Hitchcock’s film North by Northwest is for you! However, if you don’t enjoy endings that are open to interpretation, you may come away with mixed feelings. I recently watched North by Northwest with a friend of mine who’d never seen it. After watching the film, we came away with differing opinions.
The film occurs over four days’ time during which Madison Avenue man, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), finds himself in the crosshairs of government entanglements he knows nothing about. To make matters worse, he seeks comfort in the arms of a lover, and even that leaves him with a stomach full of rotten apples. However, his problems don’t end there. Add in running from killers in the Midwest, a case of mistaken identity, and shaving with a small razor and it is easy to see why Thornhill finds himself either fighting or fleeing every situation he’s in. It’s a doozy of a thrill ride of twists and turns varnished with Grant and Saint Marie’s sophistications of the mind and heart.
Personally, I loved the entire film. With every frame he’s in, the film’s lead, Cary Grant, commands the screen in the perilously pulse-pounding picture, and his co-star, Eva Marie Saint, complements his performance, bringing soothing balance to the film’s jaw-clenching tension. Besides its refined wit, one of the many things I enjoyed about this film is the stakes are internationally high yet the audience isn’t confused with politics. All the audience needs to know for the story to make coherent sense is that government secrets are in play and world security hangs in the balance. I also admired how Grant’s character handles every situation with graceful class. He deals well with trying conflicts such as being unable to trust and forbidden love, before finally finding a like-minded partner to help him battle deception.
In contrast, my friend, Sarah, enjoyed the movie but felt like the ending ruined it. “I never said I hated the film; I just don’t appreciate the ending as you do,” she remarked. “The ending is the only issue I have against the whole movie” because “there’s so much that I wish that they had included. But it just went from Point A to Point Z in a split second.”
She noted that this film style may be an acquired taste. “That’s all there is to it. Everything about that movie was good except for the ending. Other people may like it. It’s just not my cup of tea.” I agree with Sarah that “you just have to be into that type of storytelling” to fully appreciate Hitchcock’s masterpiece. Unlike Sarah, I loved the end, and I love how Hitchcock works. He’ll give a story cosmic amounts of suspense and then say, ‘just kidding’ right at the end.
North by Northwest is a film showcasing Alfred Hitchcock’s take on an unlikely hero. Watching Thornhill run from killers, fight to prove his own innocence, and suffer heartbreak has taught me to keep my head up even when nothing in my life seems to be making sense. I’ve learned to be imaginative in my manner of accepting the fact that I have no control over the varying situations I become involved in. I love North by Northwest because I don’t like feeling alone in being unable to turn a corner without getting stabbed in the back. I love commanding a screen of my own with a refined, levelheaded, and graceful wit of my own. I like being able to trust others and I like to be trusted by others. I yearn to find love and find it isn’t forbidden. I yearn to find that one person who’s just as fed up with deception and ankle-out-of-joint trust.