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The Killing

When I think of Stanley Kubrick, I think of the visionary artist that created cinematic masterpieces like 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, etc. The man is one of the greatest directors who ever lived, and the sophistication and virtual perfection of his films are a testimony to that fact. Before he became well-known for his moving and artistic films, though, Kubrick made more traditional films in his earlier years. These two different eras of Kubrick's work can literally be separated by the use of color in his films, as 2001 was his first film to not use black-and-white. The Killing, one of Kubrick's earliest films and a noir at that, proves that Kubrick's earlier traditional films were still quite fantastic examples of filmmaking.

The film follows a large group of individuals, all of whom have been gathered together by an ex-con named Johnny Clay. Clay, who was only recently let out of prison, has just come up with the ultimate heist scheme which should, if the plan goes right, land this group roughly $2,000,000 in cash. Comprised of window tellers, corrupt cops, and sharpshooters, it looks as if the heist couldn't go wrong. However, when inner tensions and suspicions begin to arise, things begin to get out of hand.

Nearly all of the elements here are simply fantastic, but the one that really stands out is the film's characterization. The characters aren't new or original, but they're loving archetypes of the noir genre. You've got the crooked police officer, the shady criminal, the femme fatale - these types of characters are makes a noir film a noir. From Johnny himself to the sharpshooter, all of these characters remain fascinating from start to finish.

The visuals are spectacularly ahead of their time - a trait which all of Kubrick's films share. Granted, they're not as groundbreaking or revolutionary as his later works would be, but they're still a marvel to look at to this day. The long tracking shots, the wide angles, the carefully crafted build-ups - it was Kubrick in training to become Kubrick, if you will. Not only that, but Kubrick can certainly make a good-looking noir. Everything you'd expect, visually-speaking, is here - dark alleyways, cramped apartments, armed criminals, the film screams 'noir'.

Even the pacing is fantastic, with each scene running at a near-perfect timing. Nothing is drawn out, stretched, or goes by too quickly, as the film starts with a fascinating intro and proceeds to take its audience down a winding path that never gets tiring or dull. I especially liked the execution of the heist itself, as we virtually see the heist performed six times over, each time seeing it through a new vantage point - a technique unheard of in 1950's American cinema.

As fantastic as the film was, I couldn't help but feel the narration was completely unnecessary. Dull, monotone, and explaining things to the viewer that are quite clear from the visuals themselves. I know Kubrick was pressured into this choice, but it's still a harrowing flaw. Other than that, and a few minor problems, The Killing's still a fantastic film and a great starting point for one of cinema's greatest directors of all-time.





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