Already on the ninth film in the Film Noir Marathon, Stanley Kubrick's 1956 film The Killing is up.
After last week's brilliant Rififi, The Killing was bound to be (at least slightly), a let down. However, due to the fact that Stanley Kubrick was behind the helm, it managed to save itself from being overly disappointing.
Featuring a very competent cast the film does well on this level. Each of them do well to show their character's internal battle between petty desires and impulses and large scale ambition. No actor is overtly superior to the others or outshines them, all fill their roles with aplomb.
The plot is centered around an elaborate heist and the aftermath of it (similar in many ways to Rififi which was clearly an influence). The first hour is a large build up to the heist. The film doesn't progress along a linear timeline though. It uses the narrator to good effect with it's jumbled nonlinear sequences. In the beginning, this feels off-putting, but as the film progress's it becomes ultimately seamless. The last half hour is devoted to showing what leads to the downfall of each man involved, even though the heist itself was executed perfectly.
Throughout the first hour, the film feels solid but not outstanding. The plot is tight and straightforward, the acting good and the nonlinear story line is fun. However, it lacks the style of most Kubrick films. That pacing and style which makes films such as A Clockwork Orange or Dr. Strangelove stand out and be noticed. Then comes the last half hour. A twisted, warped, irony-laden 30 minutes that make whatever problems the first hour had irrelevant. It's really that good.
Where the first two-thirds are good, the last third is great. The attention paid to the lighting and filming (during the whole film, a special emphasis seems to have been placed on the lighting. Characters are lit only by a single lamp or hanging light usually) is increased, which makes for one of the best ending scenes in recent memory.
The Killing shares many similarities with last week's Rififi and although it isn't as great of an achievement, it's worth watching for the last 30 minutes alone when Kubrick puts his warped touched on the movie. Plus, the first hour stands up fine as a competent noir.
1) High And Low (1963) Criterion Edition