By Brandon Bray
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the greatest auteurs in the history of cinema. I don’t think that point can be argued. My problem with creating a film about a sliver of Hitchcock’s life is, chances are you’re going to miss something incredibly important, right? Well Hitchcock doesn’t try to tell a story that defines a man but instead tells a story that encapsulates a very strange year in his life. The year he created Psycho. I went into the screening completely blind, not knowing much about the film or what the film was even about. I want to be clear, I’m not a complete idiot and knew that the film would be about Alfred Hitchcock. Moving on, I expected an incredibly long biography about Hitchcock’s life and the ups and downs of that incredible life. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to see that movie. I don’t necessarily know what I wanted to see but what I saw was truly extraordinary. A perfectly captured moment from a man that I’m sure had hundreds if not thousands of great moments.
Hitchcock is very well paced and very intentional. Clocking in at around an hour and a half, there’s never a wasted moment and never a wasted scene. Everything in the film has a purpose and fuels the story that director Sacha Gervasi is trying to tell. Gasp, a film that tells a story from beginning to end and gets to the point without aimlessly milling around? Yes indeed, and this functions as one of the films greatest strengths, unsurprisingly.
If the story is the brains of the film then the cast and acting are the body of this great creature. Anthony Hopkins plays Hitchcock with incredible precision. I think he must have studied the man tirelessly before attacking this role and it pays off in spades. I think Hopkins fancies himself a character actor, but in my opinion he is always Anthony Hopkins playing whatever role he is currently engaged in. That however is not the case here. The look is there, the mannerisms are there, but most impressively, he was able to nail the Director’s voice and his ability to command a room with it. I truly loved watching him effortlessly dawn the Hitchcock persona and effectively become completely lost within the confines of the character.
As for rest of the cast they too are absolutely amazing in their roles. Helen Mirren plays Alma Reville, the solid as a rock wife and soulmate of Mr. Hitchcock. She has nearly as much screen time as Anthony Hopkins and fills the screen with her ageless beauty and inimitable acting chops. The heart stoppingly beautiful Scarlett Johansson plays the heart stoppingly beautiful Janet Leigh and brings a heartwarming charm to the screen that helps mask some of the darker goings on. The charm and beauty of Janet Leigh really shines through Scarlett’s performance and lets us know that everything is going to be alright, even when we know there’s a fictional killer on the loose. Other notable performances were Danny Huston’s sly but charming Whitfield Cook, Toni Collette playing Alfred Hitchcock’s indifferent and dry secretary Peggy Robertson, Jessica Biel playing the stunning brunette Vera Miles and Michael Wincott playing Ed Gein. The list really does go on and on and no one performance could be done without.
As I explained earlier, Hitchcock focuses on a small period in Hitchcock’s life. The year he spent funding, filming and then ultimately, releasing his most successful film, Psycho. I’m uncertain as to the accuracy of any of the events portrayed in the film but it sure made for a great film. Some of the most interesting moments in the film surround the lack of acceptance for the kind of movie Hitchcock wanted to make. A sex scene here, a naked woman being stabbed in the shower there, a man that loved his mother a bit too much and a peeping tom. These were all things that were far too taboo to be approached in Hollywood at the time. Hitchcock’s handling of these events are genius. He doesn’t manipulate, he simply says this is what I’m willing to do what are you willing to do in return. It works in his favor nearly flawlessly but as we know anything worth doing is never easy. There were more than a few bumps along the road such as mortgaging his home to help fund the movie, Paramount didn’t want to distribute the film, the main ratings at the time wanted to shut the film down entirely, etc. etc. Though we know how the film ends and how successful Psycho would go on to become, it’s the getting there that makes this film so good.
If all biographical films could be this well crafted and tightly paced everyone would know a lot more about all the larger than life characters we have littered throughout the world’s history. While you may not care about or respect what Hitchcock has done, you won’t be able to deny that Hitchcock is a great film and well worth your time.
I give it 4 out of 5