Monday, May 19, 2014

Film Review: Marathon Man (1976)

Marathon Man (Review)
United States/1976
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...starts off slow and steady, then sprints towards the finish line."

Thomas Levy (Dustin Hoffman), nicknamed Babe, spirals into a conspiracy involving the death of his brother, priceless diamonds, and a Nazi dentist, Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier)...

Marathon Man starts off very slow. The first act of the film builds up the mystery surrounding Babe's brother and his current operation involving Szell and Szell's brother. This buildup drags its feet, explaining every detail, but still purposely omitting some details -- it wouldn't be a mystery if you knew it all. After the first act, the film picks up the pace with an epic game of cat-and-mouse as Babe tries to save himself and find out why his brother was killed. The second half of the film is filled with suspense and great twists and turns. Thrill after thrill, Marathon Man leads to a decent ending; I really enjoyed it for a moment, but then there were some actions that seemed very unlikely.

Like I said, Marathon Man starts of very slow. The first act pays close attention to detail and character, but it really isn't very efficient. The second half of the film is an adrenaline-filled thrill ride. The suspense is authentic, creating some nail-biting moments. The second half of the film is a masterfully crafted thriller. I also really enjoyed how Dr. Szell was portrayed; instead of an over-the-top villain you may expect, Szell comes off with some restraint, and I feel like that makes him much more human, in turn making him much more sinister. Aside from the inconsistent pace and a few issues with the ending, I don't have many problems with the story in Marathon Man.

Dustin Hoffman is great -- sometimes his performance is melodramatic, like when he's shouting, but he's otherwise as authentic as he can get. Laurence Olivier really gives human life to his character -- he avoided becoming a cliché with his controlled and consequently becomes a much more believable threat. The music was fantastic in every regard. The cinematography is also great. Director John Schlesinger could've been a bit more efficient with the first act, but his skill in creating genuine suspense in exemplary.

Overall, Marathon Man is a great thriller, despite some pacing issues and its decent ending. In fact, I'd argue Marathon Man is much like a marathon: it starts off slow and steady, then sprints towards the finish line. I just want to emphasize, though, I give this a very strong 8/10 -- it's not a bad film in any way, but it could've been more efficient.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some sexuality and nudity.

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