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If only I didn't watch the 1953 Clouzot original five days prior, perhaps then I would regard this film even higher. As it stands, it is probably one of the best remakes any one will ever craft.
The opening sequence establishing the characters backgrounds enhances the picture while making it different from the original. Different in the sense that the Clouzot picture leaves much for the audience to fill in for themselves, especially the demise of one of the trucks, which Friedkin unfortunately shows.
Having seen the original, with the superbly filmed tense sequences as they approach the oil well, few of the would-be tense moments had any impact on me but they were effective as an audience member next to me was gasping for breath during a few scenes (hopefully he didn't have a respiratory problem). The bridge scene was particularly spectacular.
Another major change was the lack of camaraderie and cooperation amongst the men. In the original, the the characters quickly realized that they had to work together to survive. Here they are selfish and will sabotage each other to increase their payday.
Much like Apocalypse Now, filmed at roughly the same time, this film had a troubled production, which serves to enhance my appreciation of it. Overall, this is a fantastic picture, which looks and sounds great (Tangerine Dream-their first Hollywood score!), and is far from disappointing and if Hollywood had any balls, they should take more risks like this.
A remake that does not try to be a remake. The overall frame is the same but everything else inside is not. Scheider is a powerhouse albeit not even a first choice for the role. Would've loved to see what McQueen and Mastroianni had done with the script but it is what it is.
Can't fault a lot. Perhaps it dragged a bit near the end of the first third of the movie. I feel like the drive itself could've started a good 10-15 minutes earlier.
Technically superb. The rope-bridge scenes apparently were a sonofabitch to film. And the tension was palpable throughout the scene. The music from Tangerine Dream gave it a very moroder-y feeling which I appreciated.
This odyssey from Friedkin, although it was a flop at the time, definitely still holds up and fortunately has seen a renaissance in the critics eyes as well. It feels a bit weird to launch a production that grand on a remake in the 70s. Would make a lot more sense nowadays where every third movie is a remake/sequel/reboot. But he definitely gave this film his own look and feel. Wages of Fear still is slightly better but I can definitely appreciate this one as well.
I'm amazed this isn't in more lists. It's not my favorite of Friedkin's films, but it's pretty high up there. Sure, the first act is a shade too long, but I was never bored and always wanted more. The bridge scene is about as iconic as this film will ever get, and sure enough it's the most tense moment in the film.
All in all, I love this movie. It's a slow burn for a good chunk, but I guess that's kind of appropriate everything considered.
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In 2 official lists
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This movie ranks #93 in Time Out's The 101 Best Action Movies Ever Made
This movie ranks #110 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films: 1001-2000