Marathon Man (1976)
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Marathon Man starts out as two movies. One is a drama starring Dustin Hoffman as an anxious graduate student possibly looking to exonerate his dead father of crimes he didn't commit, finding love in the big city, etc. The other is a spy thriller in which jet-setting Roy Scheider hunts Nazis and tries to fend off assassination attempts. When the two crash together, Hoffman becomes the common man thrust into circumstances out of his control. Unfortunately, this convoluted - and sometimes contrived - plot really doesn't work. Much of the time, I was wondering what the heck was happening and why. Before Hoffman gets entangled in the story, everyone knows what's happening so they don't tell the audience. Afterwards, we know just about as much as he does, which isn't much. Quick bursts of information come late and don't really smooth over the cracks, and we spend too much time on his real-world problems to see them sidelined in this way. There are suggestions that it all ties together somehow, but no satisfactory closure (perhaps unless we read the book). Tonally, it aims for 70s malaise cinema, but also includes cartoonish comedy sequences. It's like watching a bunch of good set pieces from different movies. There are some great moments of suspense - the two confrontations between Hoffman and Olivier, for example, and the Nazi thugs trying to get into Hoffman's bathroom - and some gorgeous cinematography, but the messy story-telling did this one in for me.
A very good thriller. The first half is a bit slow but it sets the stage for an exciting and crazy second half.
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In 4 official lists
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This movie ranks #43 in Spike Lee's Essential List of Films for Filmmakers
This movie ranks #50 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills
This movie ranks #561 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #797 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown