What's a better way to celebrate movies than to look back at some of our most beloved classics from some of our most beloved directors. In all the time that I have been a movie fan, nothing is better than taking a look at the evolution of what came to be the thing that you loved. In this case, its the movies for me. So, today let us take a look at one of the most influential thrillers of all time, Rear Window.
Alfred Hitchcock was a director that I have heard so much about, but it pains me to tell you that I have not seen a single movie from this guy. I just never had the time to view them. So, one fateful day I decided to check out one of his most adored masterpieces, Psycho......uh, sorry....Rear Window. What are we waiting for? Let us move on with the review.
The film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by John Michael Hayes. It is based on the short story "It Had to Be Murder" by Cornell Woolrich and was released in the year 1954. The film follows the story of L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies (played by James Stewart), a photographer who is confined in his apartment due to an accident on one of his working days, which forces him to be on a wheelchair. During his stay, he likes to notice people outside his apartment window. Soon, he begins suspecting one of the neighbors to be a murderer after viewing certain strange events.
What follows is a movie that just builds suspense and tension. One meticulously well done shot after another. The signature Alfred Hitchcockian thriller, as some of the fans would put it. So, where to begin?
The setting is the perfect place to start. What Rear Window does so well is that it is confined to one setting. It does a magnificent job of making the audience view the situation from the viewpoint of our main character. In fact, the camera never leaves the apartment. Many of the far point shots are viewed through a camera lens at best, but that's it. Also, the fact that Hitchcock was able to make a thrilling movie that is filled with shots that build tension is just mind blowing.
The characters themselves are very interesting as well. James Stewart is great, he does a pretty solid job at selling you the fact that he is a professional at what he does. Wendell Corey (who plays NYPD Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle and Jeff's best friend) was also pretty good, I particularly liked how his character isn't really written as the super nice guy (he is even hinted at being involved in adultery). Despite this, his character is certainly is not the most memorable part of the movie. He does come off as a bit cliched with his whole "That's absurd" or "You're just making stories up" routine. But the show stealer for me was Grace Kelly (who plays Lisa Carol Fremont, Jeff's girlfriend). She gives such an amazing performance as a woman who clearly cares for Jeff and is willing to do anything for him. She never comes across as creepy or possessive or even as a damsel in distress. She comes across to me as a smart, beautiful and intelligent woman who knows what she is doing. For a film in the 50's to write a character like that, was and is phenomenal.
The cinematography is just brilliant, to say the least. Looking at each shot in the movie, you can tell that a lot of effort has been put into everything. You can tell that everything was planned out and shot with the utmost precision. From a guy like Hitchcock, that is something that I would expect. Even better, is how he barely uses music in many of his scenes. He uses silence in the films most tension filled sequences. I can totally see now how that plays into many of the decent thrillers these days.
One of the other things that I liked was how the story involved many subplots for different neighbors just by showing their reactions and feelings. None of these scenes have dialogue at all. They follow a "Less talk more show" approach, and I really admire that.
Having said that, I do have a few problems with this film. Earlier, I mentioned how every scene felt meticulously shot and acted. I take this as one of the films weaknesses as well. You see, when you have a film that is filled with characters talking to each other in a confined place, the dialogue needs to feel natural. Due to the directors nature (Hitchcock hated improvisations), many of the scenes despite being well acted, often felt staged and not real. It felt more like I was watching a play rather than a movie. That's not to say that ruined the movie even by a stretch, but I generally felt that throughout the entire film. The next paragraph includes major spoilers (so please beware).
Another issue I had was with the film's climax. As well shot and tension-filled as it is. It comes to a rather rushed conclusion. The final scene where Jeff and the villain come face to face, results in the murderer being arrested and revealing all the information about how he murdered his wife in an instant. I wish it had a bit more to it. Also, some shots like the scene where Jeff falls from the apartment floor looked incredibly fake. I know this was the 50's and all, but they could have done the same shot by cutting to him falling on the ground. But, even I would agree I am nitpicking at this point.
With all that said. Rear Window is a film that really holds up. Despite the fact that I have issues with how well-staged it is or even the fact that some shots look a bit too fake or dated. I just can't put it in words what a well-crafted film this is. It is the first Hitchcock film I have ever seen and I just cannot wait to see more of his work. I love this movie. It is one of the best thrillers ever made. It is no wonder that it is considered to be one of the best films of all time.
I give Rear Window a solid 8.8/10