Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Wages of Fear

The Wages of Fear is a 1953 French-Italian movie and deservedly one of the classics in the history of film. It tells the story of four men stranded in a tiny village in south America. When an American oil company offers them one thousand dollars each to drive two trucks with nitroglycerine to a burning oil fiels, they jump at the chance. It may well be a trip none on them will survive, but it's also their only way to leave.

The movie takes a good half an hour to introduce us to the characters and when things finally get going, we have a very good idea of who they are and how they relate to each other. A modern remake would probably start of with the explosion and then just hire a couple of random guys. But since we've already spent so much time with them, we really care about the men. It allows Wages of Fear to be a psychological study as well as a thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Even after almost sixty years, the movie works. I've seen it a couple of times and I still bite my nails when Yves Montand as Mario backs the truck out on the crumbling platform or when the men try to detonate a big boulder blocking their way. It's simple and very effective, one of the best examples of what a director can do with a good story and not that much else (although it was a very expensive movie at the time).

Oh, and Yves Montand rocks the dirty undershirt before Bruce Willis was even born.

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