Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Classics: Marathon Man (1976) 9/10


Babe (Dustin Hoffman) is your regular graduate student, trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, who committed suicide during the McCarthy era. But when his brother(Rob Schneider), a secret agent, is murdered by ex-nazi dentist Szell (Laurence Olivier) he gets caught up in a world with nobody to trust, and everybody to run away from.

I've been told for many years now that Marathon Man is one of those movies you just have to see. Well after years of forgetting, avoiding, and finding other interests, I have. A captivating, all be it a bit far fetched, old school tale of a man on the run through no real fault of his own. Marathon man is really a movie in two parts. On one hand you have the first hour, which is basically all setup. We spend time with our main character, his brother, and suspicious girlfriend (Marthe Keller) . We're allowed in to their lives, to get to know them, and in return we're allowed to care what happens to them.

The characters are well built, multi-layered, and on top of it all backed by legendary actors. Hoffman is always easy to follow, and delivers exactly what the character asks of him, a general person nobody really recognizes, but has a good character foundation. Though the actor that truly outshines them all has to be Olivier. I sometimes feel Olivier can be a bit too stagey with his performances, but this time he simply blows away. Stealing every scene, Olivier is almost unrecognizable at the evil, diamond hungry dentist Szell. So much so it took me a few minutes to even recognize who I was looking at!

The supporting cast of Rob Schneider, Marthe Keller, and William Devane each deliver their performances to match that of the leads. None of them feel miscast, out of place, nor a distraction to the story. Unfortunately though Marathon Man would never work in modern cinema. Too much build up, and not enough flash for the modern movie goer. This in a sense though works heavily in the favor of Marathon Man as a piece of cinema.

Since we are allowed to learn about these characters, we're allowed to care, and see their personal transitions throughout these few days. We're also allowed to really get into the finale, because we know the characters, we know their secrets, tricks, intelligence, we're allowed to see the mental anxiety the event has placed on them. This makes the finale so much better than your typical film where the finale is almost all flash, no substance.

So I would most definitely recommend Marathon Man for all those cinema lovers, it's truly a classic to the very core.

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