I am a fan of Stanley Kubrick's work and I have watched all but 2 of his films, Dr. Strangelove and Fear and Desire. The Killing is one of those movies that is definitely heels above it's competitors of that era and some that follows it. It's definitely a classic and herald by some as their personal favorite from Kubrick, I for one see it as one of his good efforts and just can't quite get up there with his films like A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Killing was written by Kubrick and Jim Thompson, and was based on the novel "Clean Break" by Lionel White. I am not sure how much Thompson has contributed in the writing of the film, maybe a handful as he does get given the title of "screenplay by" in Paths of Glory. The Killing has a plot that has definitely been covered somewhat on films before this but it isn't the writing of this film that stands out but rather the style that Kubrick employs in telling the story. The Killing's characters for the most part are interesting enough that they don't become boring or lacking in personality. I did enjoy the work that these man had to go through for the plan to follow through, so cheers to Kubrick and Thompson for that. The aspect that truly brings this film down is the narration that drives the film. Sometimes I don't mind narration but here it just lacks that insightful depth in telling the story that it doesn't really say much other than the facts. It would have been nice for a little subjective view of the characters involved in the robbery or at least a voice over or two from some of the characters in particular moments.
Stanley Kubrick's vision for this film is quite ambitious as a style like this can keep the film from moving forward and having certain areas repeat itself and become tiresome. I admired his choice of telling the story and it has definitely inspired filmmakers in the future to embrace this narrative style. It felt like Kubrick was a little restricted when making this film as it just doesn't to seem to have that edge that his post-Paths of Glory films do. The film overall does feel a little safe but given the story that this film has it cannot really be as imaginative as his other films endure.
Lucien Ballard was responsible for the film's photography. I have yet seen another film that Ballard has worked on but I am curious on how he handles the Western films from the 60's. The film's photography is definitely well thought out and Kubrick and Ballard definitely knows what shots they want. The camera pans and moves from time to time but done so in a way that feels slick, which supports the style that Kubrick was going for. Before coming into this I was hoping that the film will have a much more darker and murkier photography to enhance a certain style that would fit in with the story. The style that Ballard uses is still fine though, I just felt it could have been more.
Gerald Fried worked with all of Kubrick's pre-Spartacus films and though his score is not as remembered or praised like Kubrick's later films, he does give his best for the films he works on. Fried's score for The Killing is not something I will remember in the long run but at the time of watching, I did get sucked in to what was happening and his score does add on to the tension and suspense that the film demanded. There are parts where it does get a little too much but not to the point where it becomes bothersome.
The Killing has a few characters it showcases and each one has their own moments especially in the first 30 minutes of the film but none can outdo Sterling Hayden's performance. Hayden brings this tough but yet prepared and logical character to life. When Hayden gets his speeches, it sounds very cool and slick. The rest of the cast on the other hand were decent and only one or two that felt a little bit too over the top, I'm looking at you Marie Windsor.
The Killing is definitely an interesting approach in telling a crime story, though used quite abundantly now, and it has a terrific performance from Sterling Hayden. Personally it's not in the higher rankings when compared to Kubrick's other films but it definitely isn't bad.