Monday, July 27, 2009

Marathon Man. A-

'Marathon Man' is a classic thriller, something that most modern films of the genre have trouble equaling. Like James McAvoy in 'Wanted,' Dustin Hoffman plays an unlikely hero. He's called Babe, and he's a student working on his degree. He also spends a good deal of his time running, which explains the title. His life seems to be pretty normal until his brother (Roy Scheider) shows up at his apartment dead. He's then captured by two intruders in one of the most chilling sequences ever filmed. He's taken to the insidious Szell (Laurence Olivier), a nazi dentist who keeps asking Babe the mysterious question: 'is it safe?' Babe has no idea what it means, but he just knows he needs to escape. After a brutal torture procedure involving dentistry, Babe manages to escape, knowing that he must bring down Szell, who's involved in a diamond scheme. 'Marathon Man' is written by William Goldman and based off a novel he also wrote. It's an exceptional piece of material, crafted to perfection for the screen. The performances are outstanding. Scheider as always is terrific, Olivier is timeless as the villain, and Hoffman brings to the table a performance that only proves more why he's one of the great actors in the cinema. Most of his finest work came in the late sixties and all through the seventies. Unfortunately I feel that a lot of younger people these days are missing out on a star who had a true presence on the screen. 'Marathon Man' defines edge-of-your-seat suspense. But it also has some great dialogues and some character depth that seems to be lacking in so many new thrillers. The only thing I didn't understand was why Babe walks instead of runs at the end. Maybe he was too tired out. I know I would be.

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