Film Review - North By Northwest

Release Date - 1959
Director - Alfred Hitchcock 
Genre - Crime Fiction, Thriller, mystery, Drama.

In the 1940s through to the 1960s, Alfred Hitchcock was arguably one of the world's greatest film directors who bought romance and suspense to new cinematic levels. known for conceptualising his films in his mind in great detail, Hitchcock had a interesting sense of humor and was a master manipulator of his audiences with unexpected dramatics. Hitchcock loved presenting viewers with difficult circumstances, characters who get involved in sinister plans that are hard to fathom and situations that seem to offer no easy or normal way out.

North by Northwest may be one of the most classic Hitchcock films because of Cary Grant's great comic skills and it's almost show-offy action like sequences, together with its complicated plot. There are some more unbelievable moments in North by Northwest that stretch one's belief in the story too far, like why try to kill Grant with a crop-duster plane and then have it crash into a lorry containing oil, which Grant hides under and escapes completely unharmed? Why doesn't Grant find it strange that in the middle of danger aboard a train he would be seduced and saved by a beautiful woman who seems determined to get his attention? 

The persona of its lead, Cary Grant, showed a civilised hero and was obviously a major role model for James Bond. Suave, sophisticated, athletic, womanizing, daring and very humorous, talking about humour, In one famous scene, he breaks into a woman's hospital room and she yells hysterically "Stop!," then puts on her glasses, and then, imploringly, says "Stop," to which Grant, with his back to the camera keeps on going by and out the door while giving her a knowing, smiling rejection in a playful grunt. (fig.2) showing the one of the many brilliant humours moments.

Cary Grant breaking into a woman's hospital room -
But a very iconic scene would be when Cary Grant arrives at an isolated placed in rural Indiana to meet the person he has been mistaken for, he gets off a bus and on to a empty highway surrounded by farmland, there are a few long establishing shots that truly show how he is in the middle of no where, looking rather out of place too, but the lack of noise is what creates the tension, all you can hear for a long time is the plane in the background. Tola Onanuga writes in detail about this particular scene and  agrees that the lack of noise just emphasises the tension "Hitchcock uses these eerie sound effects to ratchet up the tension a notch." (Onanuga, 2013) A few people in multiple reviews seem to always mention how Hitchcock really played on tension in his films "Of course, the hallmark of North by Northwest is the way in which Hitchcock develops tension." (Berardinelli, 2015)

The pacing of the film is also brilliant, the intriguing characters and outlandish plot are often seen as the reason for its popularity but the crop-duster scene seems to take all the great elements of the whole film and combined it into one well shot scene. 'Hitchcock was (and still is) the master of suspense not just because he understood perfect pacing, but because he was able to repackage nightmarish clichés into fresh and exciting pieces of cinema.' (Renée, 2014) (fig.3) showing how the scene may be more cinematic than others and how Cary Grant stands out.

Hitchcock always brought a recurring series of themes to his movies, innocent men falsely accused, mistaken identities, icy blondes, strong mothers and often-absent fathers. Bumbling cops, threatening spies, strangers on trains, subtle homoerotic undertones and surprising twists and turns of the plot and never more successfully than in North by Northwest. 

Cary Grant at the bus stop in the middle of no where, looking very out of place in his suit.
The iconic scene where Cary Grant is being chased down by the crop duster plane. 

Illustration List - 

Figure One - 'Fat Movie Guy | North by Northwest Movie Poster - Fat Movie Guy' (1959) From: North By Northwest. Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Poster] United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At: www.fatmovieguy.com

Figure two - 'Mind Blown: Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest - aka The ...' (1959) From: North By Northwest. Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Still] United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At: mind--blown.blogspot.com

Figure Three - 'North by Northwest (1959) – Alfred Hitchcock (Guest post from ...' (1959) From: North By Northwest. Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Still] United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At: aworldoffilm.com

Figure Four - 'North by Northwest (1959) – locations - The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki' (1959) From: North By Northwest. Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Still] United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At: the.hitchcock.zone

Bibliography - 

Berardinelli, James. (2015) 'North By Northwest'  From: North By Northwest. 
In: http://www.reelviews.net [Online] At: http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=757. (Accessed on the 29.01.15)

Onanuga,Tola. (2013) 'Why I love … North By Northwest's crop-duster scene' From: North By Northwest. In:http://www.theguardian.com 30.07.13 [Online] At:http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/sep/30/north-by-northwest-grant-hitchcock.
(Accessed on 29.01.15)

Renée, V. (2014) 'Breaking Down the Iconic 'Crop Duster' Scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 'North by Northwest'' From: North By Northwest. In: http://nofilmschool.com. 09.03.14 [Online] At:http://nofilmschool.com/2014/03/breaking-down-the-crop-duster-scene-from-hitchcocks-north-by-northwest. (Accessed on the 29.01.15)


  1. Hey Becky!

    Ok, you have the in-text referencing sorted now :)

    BUT - see my previous comment about using sentences and paragraphs straight from someone else's writing... for example, your concluding paragraph, which is word-for-word from Laurie Boeder's review in 'About Entertainment'.

  2. Hi Becky - I think Jackie is being diplomatic... she's managing not to use the word 'theft', which unaccredited use of someone else's intellectual property most certainly is; you might be a bit rusty around the rules of paraphrasing and referencing, but I suggest this is the last time you need to be reminded of the line between using evidence and breaking and entering... enough said, I hope.