North By Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

October 6, 1996

Reviewed by: Muhammad Hozien


The plot of this film is complex to say the least with a lot of twists and turns. It starts out as a story of mistaken identity. Roger Thornhill an advertising executive is mistaken for an American Agent George Kaplan, by a group of spies. After a failed murder attempt he becomes a prime murder suspect of a United Nations official. As Roger flees from the police, he begins by tracking the real George Kaplan. Roger discovers, much to his dismay, that George Kaplan does not really exist. Roger meets Eve Kendall on a train to Chicago, which later becomes the love interest. At first she appears to help him but we soon find out that she is the mistress of Philip Van Damn, the spies’ leaders. She leads Roger into romance and than into danger. To the now legendary "dust Cropping" scene, in which he is chased by a dust cropping plane in an empty field "with no crops." Roger narrowly escapes with his life.

He meets up with Eve, once more, at art auction in which he makes a scene and instills doubts in Van Damn as to Eve’s loyalty. The government, in the form of the ‘Professor’ - who is working for the USIA, United States Intelligence Agency- informs Roger that Eve is really a double agent secretly working for the USIA and that the spies are smuggling government secrets in works of Art.

Roger at this point discovers that he has placed Eve’s life in danger and decides to rescue her. In order to help Eve restore her loyalty to Van Damn and on account that she will leave Van Damn Roger agrees to a fake shooting of ‘Kaplan.’ Roger finds out that Eve will not leave Van Damn escapes form the hospital and attempts to rescue her. Roger rescues her as she escapes with a statuette that contains the evidence.

The climax of the film is a chase on Mount Rushmore. The film finishes with Van Damn getting caught and Roger rescues Eve from the face of the cliff of the face of a President. Although the film takes place in a few as four days and nights, the locales change drastically. From New York City to Chicago, from Chicago to a Prairie stop, and finally to Mount Rushmore. The plot’s twists and turns create a mode of constant suspense and surprise as we find out more information about Roger’s predicament. As Roger finds out more information and sometimes misinformation we are surprised at each of the plot’s twists and turns.

This movie is highly enjoyable with its continued suspense and plot twists. It is more of a thriller than a mystery. The element of surprise and sometimes misinformation creates a situation of suspense. As an example of this when Roger agrees to clear Eve of any suspicion by agreeing to the staged shooting. Roger, as we do, believes that Eve will leave Van Damn, however the Professor later explains that she must leave with Van Damn. As Roger resists he is knocked out, subsequently he escapes the hospital and attempts to rescue Eve. The rescue leads to the final climax of the film. The suspense and surprise continue even at the climax. A sharpshooter out of our range of knowledge shoots the henchman who grinds Roger’s hand that is clutching the edge of the cliff while the other hand is holding Eve from falling.

Hitchcock limits our knowledge of information by placing us in the character’s point of view. This is used effectively to surprise us and limit our knowledge as well. An example of this is when Roger is attacked by the plane at the Prairie stop. Our information is limited to what Roger sees and knows.

Hitchcock also does the opposite where we are given more information than the character to build suspense. An example of this is that we learn, before Roger does, that George Kaplan does not exist. We also find out that Eve is working for Van Damn before Roger does. All this information builds up suspense and surprise. This is also done when Roger is at Van Damn’s house, We see the maid before he does. The maid sees his reflection in a turned off TV set and later returns with a pistol aimed at Roger.


Producer and Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Associate Producer: Herbert Coleman

Screenplay: Ernest Lehman

Music: Bernard Herrmann

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