Stuck Up Cinema – The Killing

Movie: The Killing
Released: 1956
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

I’ve talked a bit about Stanley Kubrick a bit before in the past of Stuck Up Cinema. I’m going to try and not reiterate too much of what I said there within this review of his 1956 movie, The Killing. Kubrick is an amazing director. Something like that should go without saying considering the amount of praise his movies get. Yes, certain movies of his won’t be enjoyed by everyone, but that’s just the pitfalls of any artistic medium. I am a fan of Kubrick; I’m not at a point yet where I can gush over every second of one of his films, but I can respect what he has brought to filmmaking.

Alright, with that out of the way let’s venture into this week’s Stuck Up Cinema where I review another old movie, something I haven’t done since my first entry on this blog. Movies like this are all very important to me because of what they represent to filmmaking. I think that anyone who has any sort of interest in movies should check out movies that come out before they were born. Otherwise they’re missing out on good movies that they normally wouldn’t see, and with a medium as awesome as film, that’s just a damn shame.

The Killing is a good old fashioned heist movie. I say that with the utmost literalism I possibly could too. It’s good, it’s old fashioned, and it’s a heist movie. You know what you’re in for before the movie even starts. There will be a group of people who are trying to steal a lot of money, and you know that throughout the movie there are going to be some betrayals and double crossings and things just aren’t going to end well for the people involved. This is because this movie existed at a time where if you did something wrong, it was only fitting that karma would come back with its swift hand of karmic justice. No, I wouldn’t say this is spoilers for the movie, as it’s just normal for bad characters to get their justice in movies like this.

The Killing was one of Kubrick’s earlier movies, coming out in 1956. It follows a group of men who come together to steal millions of dollars from a horse track on the day of a big race. Their plan involves the usual ‘heist’ stuff: causing a distraction, getting those working in the track involved so there’s an inside man, holding up everyone in the safe while wearing a slightly off-putting clown mask, shooting a horse– yeah, you heard that right, shooting a horse. Most of the movie is establishing the characters, their quirks, how they react to each other and the relationships between everyone. As these are all being established we are also shown a few of the plot threads that, if pulled, will unravel their entire plan and bring the whole thing crashing down over them. It’s not exactly an unpredictable movie, as you can see the set-ups happening, but the ride from point A to point B is crafted so well that you don’t even care.

What makes this movie so good is that it grips you in with its relatively simple heist story and doesn’t let go throughout the entire climax. The heist itself is told in a fragmented fashion where we see every member of the group do their job, and day leading up to the job, at different times in different intervals. This is neat because we get to see how they all connect together as it happens, reaching the climax of the heist only to step back to the beginning and calm it all down again. It’s then when we hit the actual climax with the lead character heading into the vault to get the money we truly get sucked into the master class filmmaking that is The Killing.

When you watch this movie pay attention to the camera movements and the blocking of the actors within the camera frame. Like in Paths of Glory, The Killing showcases an insane amount of skill in the way the camera moves and the actors interact within that camera space. I’d love to try and describe it here for you to try and imagine, but really your best bet is to get your hands on this movie. It’s available on the Criterion Collection, much like Kuroneko, and it’s worth every cent of the cost. The bluray looks fantastic and the sound quality is great; it’s easily the best available way to watch The Killing.

If you like heist movies then picking up The Killing is pretty much without question. The movie is great and you’ll enjoy the ride it’ll take you on. The characters are all distinct and likeable (or unlikeable) in their own unique ways and when you see the whole heist come together you won’t help but enjoy it. It’s not long either, running in it a short length of 84 minutes, so if you are one of those people who get bored of old movies easily then this movie is even further up your alley. Of course this is me ignoring the fact that you get bored at old movies which is just, to my elitist opinion, disgusting, but to each their own, right? In the end I have only good things to say about The Killing. It’s by no means perfect, but it is a great movie and a must see for anyone who has any interest in serious cinema.

The Killing: 9/10

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