Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Wages of Fear. A

When sitting down to one of the classics, there's always the chance that the film will become a personal favorite. The reality of this is simple, really. Anything that possesses timelessness is something to be admired, and once admiration sets in, movies can become very personal with the viewer. That's the case with me and The Wages of Fear, a dramatic thriller from one of my favorite directors, Henri-George Clouzot. To me it's a masterpiece because it's splendidly made, but there's more to my love of it that pertains strictly to personal preference. The Wages of Fear has the same appeal that There Will Be Blood and Treasure of the Sierra Madre (and to a lesser extent, Giant, The Painted Hills, and The Gold Rush) do. If you've seen either of those movies, an explanation is not needed. And so, in the same sense that I love Blood and Madre, The Wages of Fear is now a new favorite of mine. The film has characters that are more sympathetic than in those other movies mentioned, but the overall motivation for them is still just to make money. The title refers to a dangerous mission four men embark on when they're hired to transport two massive trucks full of nitroglycerin to an oil site. The road is full of dangerous obstacles, and one false move and the drivers will blow up. The drive itself, which occupies roughly two thirds of the film, is basically one, long exercise in suspense. That drive and the problems encountered during it make for one of the greatest achievements in the history of film. The Wages of Fear is one of the great movie titles, and it basically means, as the character Jo points out, that the men are getting paid to be scared. This is a movie all about fear, and beneath its surface it strives to answer the question of what being afraid really means. The answer seems not to be that man's greatest fear is death, but that we never truly fear death until we see it before out eyes. You still want to take that ride?

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