16 March 2012 | Kubris
Not what I expected- so much more.
IMDb Top 250: 105
I finished On the Waterfront about 2 hours ago, and something strange happened. Something I haven't done in a long while, I can't for certain remember the film that caused it. When the film ended, I sat in silence for about 10 minutes.
On the Waterfront is an inspiring film. There's a feeling you get watching it- movie magic. Something great is playing out in front of your eyes and you are taking in the collective effort of geniuses. Right from the start, with the dramatic score (that stays fine throughout) introducing the film, something special is happening.
The plot synopsis gives the appearance of a plain film, and plain it is not. The mob, murder and romance are the stars of this show and right off the start this is apparent- like the lighting of a fuse. Then as the wick burns down, the drama unfolds. We learn about Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), his past and present, and his conflicted thoughts. We are introduced to characters that push him down the path he has to choose. A viewer grows to care about Terry, and until he decides for himself, we have no idea what he'll do.
This film is an acting gold magnet- it received 5 nominations in acting alone. I'll start with Brando's legendary performance. It doesn't matter what you think of him offscreen because for 2 hours he is at his very best, one of the best in acting ever. Terry is a fantastic character and Brando gives an unrivalled, honest performance.
Wanting him to stand against his negative influences are Father Barry (Karl Malden) and Edie (Eva Marie Saint). The father is a frustrated man, furious in his quest for righteousness. Only in The Exorcist have I liked a priest as much. He gives a raging performance, at its peak with a scolding of the longshoremen. Riveting. With him, but quite the opposite in character is Edie, who falls into the plot. Saint aces her characters role, which is to mold Terry. Their scenes are tender, believable, and in a recurring theme with the film, honest. During their bar scene I thought they could've just made a romance together, leaving out all the drama.
On the other side, the mob union leaders, we have Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), the head honcho, who is ferocious, intimidating, and impeccably evil to honest workers. There's also Charley (Rod Steiger), Terry's older brother who is comfortably in with the mob. I didn't notice him at all, except for 'the scene' which must've made him in the Academy's eyes.
Speaking of 'the scene', the pivotal Taxi cab dialogue between Terry and Charley, you can tell as it happens this is the moment, the peak of On the Waterfront and Marlon Brando. It is the turning point of the film, where Terry makes some huge realizations that we can infer from only his face and tone. I won't even discuss his words, as it's been done by absolutely everyone. There are several other great scenes, like the 'It's a crucifixion' speech and the various rooftop scenes.
Right until the last scene we aren't sure what will happen. I won't spoil it, but it's elevating. Heroic. Even enlightening.
On the Waterfront is about the small speaking out against the large and corrupt. It's about going against the flow, breaking the silence. Sometime in your life you were or will be in Terry's position to some degree, and you'll either do or don't. Leave it at that, please don't read the director's reasoning behind the film. Take it for what it is: a fantastic film that will make you want to be a better person who can speak out against wrongdoers. Powerful indeed.
I thought On the Waterfront would be good, but not this good. With stupendous performances, a top notch story and a strong message, On the Waterfront is film at it's best. 9.4/10