Thriller

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

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Director: Alfred Hitchcock
MPAA Rating: Not Rated (released before MPAA ratings)
Running Time: 136 min.

When two thugs kidnap Roger Thornhill from a business lunch at a fancy hotel, he isn’t sure whether he should be more afraid or outraged.  His captors seem to have mistaken him for someone called “George Kaplan,” and they won’t believe him when he tells them they’ve got the wrong man.  When he refuses to cooperate—for the simple reason that he has no idea what they’re talking about—they try to kill him by staging a drunk driving accident. When he survives and returns with the police to the mansion where he was being held, his captors have carefully covered their tracks, making him seem like a paranoid drunk.  But the last straw comes when the kidnappers frame him for the murder of a United Nations diplomat.  Now Roger is on the run—from the kidnappers and from the police—and the only hope he has of clearing his name is to find the real George Kaplan.

You know a film was made by “the Master of Suspense” when you’ve seen it ten times and it still makes you jump.  As is Hitchcock’s strength, the suspense comes as much from action as from lack of action, mystery, and uncertainty.  Humor and sexual tension is smoothly blended into story, and unlike many thrillers today, Hitchcock does not ignore the visual artistry of his filmmaking when focusing on the action of the plot.  His intentional, deliberate use of color and carefully composed shots make his film attractive as well as exciting.  Yes, you must be tolerant of 1950s special effects and ridiculous (and sexist) flirty banter, but Hitchcock’s masterpiece is a must-see for thriller lovers.  Definitely a favorite of mine.  I highly recommend it!

“ORPHAN BLACK” (2013- )

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Creators: John Fawcett and Graeme Manson

After ten months away living with her abusive, drug-dealing ex-boyfriend, Sarah Manning takes a late subway train back to Toronto, hoping to see her young daughter, Kira.  Unfortunately, Kira’s current guardian (Sarah’s own foster mother) makes it clear on the phone that Sarah can’t see her daughter until she has cleaned up her act.  As she is about to leave the subway, Sarah sees a woman identical to herself commit suicide by jumping in front of the train.  In the commotion that follows, Sarah—enterprising young grifter that she is—steals the dead woman’s purse.  She realizes that she looks so much like the dead woman (who is revealed by her driver’s license to be Beth Childs) that she may be able to make even more money by stealing her identity.  But Sarah’s plan to drain Beth’s bank accounts and then escape with Kira goes awry when she discovers that Beth was actually a cop.  Even worse, Beth (now Sarah) is on trial for having accidentally killed a civilian.  As Sarah tries to think on her feet and keep herself out of prison, she also discovers that Beth may have been caught up in something even more sinister and complicated than she first realized.

This show is awesome!  It is a funny, suspenseful Sci-Fi thriller (though you wouldn’t know it from my description above; the Sci-Fi enters a couple episodes in) and is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat as you try to untangle the mystery.  If you don’t like shows that make you think, this is not the show for you.  But if you like humorous, fast-paced, suspenseful science fiction, you will love this show.  It is incredibly well-written, and Tatiana Maslany is a phenomenal actress.  She can play more than one role and have you fully convinced that she is two different people.  She even has chemistry with herself.  I cannot recommend it highly enough to Sci-Fi and mystery/thriller fans. It is quickly becoming a favorite of mine!

Orphan Black will probably appeal to viewers who like suspenseful yet humorous Sci-Fi such as “Warehouse 13,” “Doctor Who,” and “Firefly.” It may also appeal to fans of suspenseful shows like “Alias” and “24.”

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (2013)

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Director: J. J. Abrams
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 132 min.

On a planet in the Nibiru system, Captain Jim Kirk and his crew have broken protocol in order to rescue a civilization from a deadly volcano.   When their plan goes wrong and in order to save Spock’s life, Kirk must violate Starfleet’s Prime Directive—never to interfere with the development of an alien civilization—by allowing the primitive natives to catch a glimpse of the Enterprise.  Naturally, he lies about it in his official reports.  Unfortunately, Spock submits a report as well, and Vulcans never lie.  Admiral Marcus responds to Kirk’s blatant disregard of protocol by demoting him to First Officer and transferring Spock to another ship.  But before these changes can take place, tragedy strikes.  A rogue Starfleet Officer, John Harrison, blows up a Starfleet library, and when the Starfleet Command gathers to address the crisis, Harrison attacks again.  Among the dead is Kirk’s mentor and friend, Christopher Pike.  When Mr. Scott traces Harrison’s teleport back to the Klingon home world, all that is on Kirk’s mind is regaining control of the Enterprise and avenging Pike’s death.  But John Harrison may not be who he seems. . . .

J. J. Abrams has once again created an absolutely wonderful Star Trek film.  I am still amazed at how true this cast is to the original characters they are portraying.  Of course Benedict Cumberbatch is a wonderful addition.  Star Trek fans probably won’t be surprised by any of the “twists,” but that doesn’t matter.  Abrams isn’t relying on any cheap tricks or dramatic revelations.  Everything—from the dialogue to the character development to the action sequences—is well written and engaging.  If you like Sci-Fi and/or action movies, go see Into Darkness!  (I also recommend 3D on this one; it’s great!)  

 

SNEAKERS (1992)

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Director: Phil Alden Robinson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time 126 min.

I re-watched this old favorite of mine over the weekend.

In the 1970s, Martin Brice and his friend Cosmo dreamed of changing the world.  They used their skill with computers to hack into the financial accounts of organizations with whose political philosophy they disagreed and donating their money to more worthy causes.  It was a thrilling game, and Marty was sure they’d never be caught.

Nearly twenty years later, Cosmo has died in prison and Marty, who never did get caught, is still on the run from the law.  Under the alias Martin Bishop, he runs an organization of brilliant technical and criminal minds who make a living being hired by banks and corporations to test out their security systems—by trying to stage a break in.  They’re the best in the business.  But when the NSA shows up at Marty’s door and threaten to reveal  his identity if he does not help them get their hands on a foreign scientist’s mysterious black box, Marty and his team have no choice but to take the assignment.  When they discover the truth about the black box’s purpose, they realize they are in way over their heads.

This con/spy/heist film is at once hilarious, suspenseful, and incredibly well-acted.  Marty and his team are played by Robert Redford, Mary McDonnell, Dan Ackroyd, David Strathairn, Sidney Poitier, and River Phoenix, and the personalities of the characters are absolutely wonderful.   Also, early 90s computer technology is always entertaining. . . . I highly recommend this movie!