Thursday, February 3, 2011

Le salaire de la peur

The Wages of Fear is a masterpiece of suspense and drama directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot that is set in Latin America and revolves around a group Europeans who have been tramping around the world until they ran out of money in the wrong town. The town remains unnamed, because the town deserves no name, and is a symbol of poverty, despair and lack of opportunity. In this town we are introduced to the principal players of this film, Mario, Jo, Luigi and Bimba, all four Europeans who seem to still be lost following the events of World War II.

The plot is simple enough, an American oil derrick has exploded and the resulting fire is raging out of control. The Southern Oil Company has a plan to stop the oil fire but they need to find a way to transport nitroglycerin over several hundred miles of the roughest roads Nicaragua has to offer and without any safety equipment. Obviously the American labor unions won’t let this plan go forward but the foreman has a plan. Off to pay an exorbitant amount of money to four men to take two trucks loaded with the nitroglycerin and hope that one of the trucks makes it there. Thankfully the town nearby is filled with desperate men from Europe and even the United States that see this job as a way to escape the town they have been stuck in for far too long.

I will assume everyone reading this has seen Hitchcock films before, and if you haven’t well there is something seriously wrong with you and you need to find yourself a copy of a movie like North by Northwest, Vertigo, Foreign Correspondent, etc. and watch those movies right now. Clouzot sets his film up like a classic Hitchcock film and in many ways beats Hitchcock at his own game. The film starts with a slow and deliberate introduction of the setting and the characters so that you can understand their motivations and desperation. The second half of the film is a tense and nerve wracking game of survival. The Wages of Fear takes you on a suspenseful ride and does it so well that you feel like you are in the trucks with the protagonists fighting for survival.

During the film we also get a glimpse at the relationship Mario has with a local girl named Linda. Mario is so obsessed with making money and escaping the town that he fails to see that Linda loves and adores him. The film shows us that we are often so focused some unforeseeable future or some romanticized past that we fail to see the good we have in our life in the present.

Overall excellent film and a must watch for anyone that is a fan of suspenseful films.

5/5 stars.