Marathon Man (1976) Directed By John Schlesinger

Marathon Man, a 1970's thriller with Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier and Roy Scheider. Should be quality. And that's how it starts: good looking photography, Dustin running in New York and a car chase with old men in their 70s. I was actually laughing and sitting comfortably on the sofa. I trusted that this film would have brains, even though I knew it would be a tense thriller and I had read that there is a sadistic nazi involved.

But then the tensity just built and I started sweating because there were bombs inside babies and Japanese murderers at loose. And to cut into what really upset me: the bloody blond nazi man (Laurence Olivier). With this most obvious villain characterizations of all, the film was desperately making sure that we (the audience) know where to direct our emotional responses.
–Lets just milk that old cow some more and leave the rest of the movie without any content.
Sure, nazis are still upsetting as hell and this one's love for dental torture is a nice touch. Do you get it? Torture!

At this point I was going to walk out on this movie. I knew that none of the characters were to be trusted as 'good' except for our hero, Dustin. So there was no intensity left, just disappointed anger.

This is the first film we've watched in an age where Astrid actually found it offensive. It's quite weird that this potboiler of a thriller should cause the offense. It did raise some other questions to me. The dental torture scenes in this film (which were more sound and suggestion than actually seeing anything) had a strange echo of what we know has been happening amongst government secret services around the world in current times. I'm not trying to give the film more importance than it has, but my question is : showing sadist acts on screen, is it necessary and does cinema have to censor itself (maybe more so in the case of a routine thriller)? Is it not good that cinema makes us face some harsh realities, even if out of context? Bottom line is, real people get tortured everyday.
The film is a basic revenge thriller about an undergraduate (Dustin Hoffman) who gets involved in some old Nazi's (Laurence Olivier) plot to collect some diamonds in New York. The Marathon Man in the title really is about the Hoffman character being a runner and hence the way he escapes the torturing bad guys. They even have some reference to McCarthyism, Chicago riots and leftist politics in the script to give the film some credibility, but you never buy it.
William Goldman, the highly rated screenwriter and novelist wrote this nonsense. Like Hoffman and Olivier, you wonder what made him do it. The film looks great, as most 70's movies do nowadays, and Schlesinger directs with pace. Roy Scheider steals the film as the top assasin Doc, but unfortunately he get's bumped off half way through and it's at that point we're left with lots of running, shooting and over the top hamming up from Olivier and Hoffman.
I can understand people even rating this film, but it's all surface. It will appeal to those who claim that the Bourne trilogy are actually serious art house movies and not just the clinical action thrillers they really are.
But to paraphrase the film, "Is It Safe?" watching this movie? Not if you want more meaning.


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