June 1, 2010
I'm unsure if I'd agree with the sentiments that Vertigo is Alfred Hitchcock's best film and one of the greatest films of all-time. However, the film's certainly fantastic and a great example of how far ahead Hitchcock's films were. Creating an enticing, suspenseful, and subtle mystery is difficult for any writer/director, but Hitchcock makes it look incredibly easy in this nail-biting thriller.

In the film, we follow ex-detective John "Scottie" Ferguson as he's called back into action. Once he meets up with an old friend, Gavin Elster, he's asked to investigate his friend's wife's strange behavior. Gavin isn't worried of infidelity or anything of that sort, instead being curious of his wife's peculiar walkabouts. In these walkabouts, Madeline - the wife - quietly travels through graveyards, museums, and hotels without so much as an explanation. As if this weren't mysterious enough, Madeline can never recollect any of these walkabouts or personality changes. As John investigates further into the matter, he soon becomes obsessed with the beautiful Madeline and finds himself dragged into a mystery that's deeper than it appears.

Vertigo is simply one of those films that's easy to get sucked into. It starts out quite calmly, but this soothing calm tragically doesn't last long. We're led into a mystery filled with twists, deceit, and intrigue, with every new step leaving the audience craving for more. The characters and the thrills are very engrossing and the suspense tightens as the film progresses. If you'll forgive the morbid comparison, Vertigo is akin to getting hanged. You start out calmly and loose but, as as the noose tightens, the pressure begins to get tighter and tighter. By the film's last ten minutes, we're practically suffocating in dreadful anticipation. Then, in the very last minute of the film, we're "let go" with an ending that's just as shocking as it is a morbid release.

The characters in the film are all fantastic, with the exception of the aggravating Midge - John's former love interest. Other than her though, the characters are perfectly written, acted, and executed in this film. Everything seems, and probably was, planned out to the most minute detail. Nothing feels cheap or phony, and it's these fascinating and tragic characters that lead us to love this top-notch thriller.

Hitchcock was a genius when it came to cinematography, and this film is just a further example of how amazingly well this man understood the camera. From the opening, you can easily tell that you'll be in for a visual masterpiece. The darkness, width, and precision of that scene is just remarkable, and the whole film's chock full of great moments like these. If the beginning wasn't great enough, the closing moments of Vertigo have to be the moments when the film's at its best. With the tension cutting like a knife, the scenes work so incredibly well that to change it would be a cinematic sin. Definitely one of the greatest endings in film history.

If the film suffers from one major problem, I'd say that would be the pacing. I love slow-moving pictures as much as the next guy, but I felt that some scenes kind of dragged in Vertigo. Not the scenes of John tracing Madeline, mind you, but mostly the conversational pieces between John and Midge. Maybe it's because I dislike Midge, maybe it's because the conversations just last a bit too long, but it still sort of bugged me and made me feel restless. The natural feeling of the film's characters make up for the dragging though.

With a character-driven mystery of epic proportions and fantastic visuals, Vertigo proves to be enthralling, suspenseful, and extremely well-crafted. It can drag just a little bit, but this is only a tiny scratch on a gem like this.

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