Marathon Man Reviews
Taut thriller adapted from William Goldman's novel about a graduate history student who unwittingly gets caught up in the middle of an international conspiracy involving an exiled Nazi war criminal. Brilliant performances from Hoffman and Oliver, with some iconic scenes and bravura moments...but there are far too many obvious story holes, which bog the whole film down. Great scene with people recognizing Oliver in the street and ends in someones throat getting slit.
Crusty old Nazis, hidden switch blades, torture scenes, a ridiculous 70s score, and a ripped Dustin Hoffman. What more could you want?
The story in this film is unpredictable and very inventive, it has great twists and turns and remains interesting and involving throughout and it even made me laugh sometimes as well. William Goldman wrote the script for his own story as usual and he and Dustin Hoffman had pretty good years in '76 and well as Hoffman reuniting with Schlesinger. Like I said, Dustin Hoffman did a great job in this film and for the most part is convincing for his age that he is supposed to be but his voice is quite deep for someone of that age, as well as Elsa, she seemed older than a typical student as well, but, hey, not all students are the same age. There was a point in film he will actually get away with it and while I'm always one for a film to break convention, this was the one time you really want to see the villain get what they deserve. Of course, when the final scene does happen you know what's going to be thrown in the water and that the gun will end up on the ground but it is hugely satisfying to watch, as is the whole films. And when will villains learn to not leave their valuables on the ground. I thought Babe would spit back at the end of that scene because it happened to him but, no, he's more mature than that. And, hey, it looks like all that running paid off, even if, after the film develops, that whole plot point of he runs felt like set up just for one escape scene. The torture scene is iconic for a reason but I do wonder what else we missed, seeing as how it was cut down because of preview audiences reactions. There's also some lines I found funny with, 'Elsa!', 'Just let her go', and, 'This is madness... Madness', I mean, wow.
The film has excellent cinematography and editing, the scenes at the start with the car incident were great to watch and had me bracing myself for a crash and it happened again when it transitioned into someone playing pinball or opening a book. The camera zooms out just a little for the credits and even that works perfectly. Although, in the running scene at the start I really couldn't understand what either Hoffman or the person he was chasing was saying, and why did he keep his watch in his jumper like that? It might have fallen out. I thought in that car scene though that that person who stalled was planting a bomb because of his crafty actions earlier on with a cigarette box, and honestly, what was the point of that? We see Roy Scheider's character with it and it looks like he's hiding that so I thought that would be the big secret everyone was hiding but in the next scene we see a character eating out of it with the chocolate that was originally in there. Did I miss something? Was it just for his own personal use and he had to hide it and nothing more? It just fades out after a while. Didn't the person with the pram have it as well at one point?
I thought Roy Scheider's character, at first, was Babe's counsellor or something seeing as how he was called Doc and he wrote a letter to him; I thought it odd why he would be so aggressive about Babe's papers about his father but it makes sense now and the coincidences of that character being involved with Olivier's ceases. However, there are still some things that seemed very coincidental. I can't say the character's name for spoiler reasons, but what about if Babe hadn't have hidden that book? Those two wouldn't have been able to meet then; sure, the other character could have met up with him again at some point but what about if he decided to walk away or something? The whole plan would crumble then. I actually did think that her character was some sort of spy as that would explain why those guys in the park jumped them but that is explained for different reasons. Also, Babe should have stayed in the bathroom and stayed as quiet for as long as he could and have at least tried to get out of the window and he should have taken his flannel off faster than he did. Of course, when a character is killed, and then that other character is told to keep walking into the shadows, I think we all knew what was going to happen, even if don't really understand the football part. A warning? Sure, of course it was, but why a football? Also, why was that owner of that shop just eating right in the middle of his shop? Who does that? And later on when Doc goes to the theatre, someone has died and I thought it was another model at first, but before that, he talked to wrong person, it's hard to see in the dark I know but it was still another addition of some humor. And when Babe needs some help as he is clearly in distress, that guy asked, 'what's in it for me?' Really? Why would you do that?
Also, you'd have thought that people would have checked an abandoned pram. As well as the moment when Doc walks into Babe's apartment after his encounter and I remember reading that they don't actually draw around bodies like that. And Szell has a pretty useless bodyguard that didn't even do anything when Doc slapped him. I thought the fact that Babe gets taken back to his childhood house at the end was coincidental but it gets explained soon after. I found it a bit coincidental nearing the end when Szell goes to that town, really? Out of all the people in the world, is it really likely that people are going to recognise him? Especially with different hair? And why would he have used his real name anyway? Sure, you could argue when he was doing his horrible things in the war he would have used his real name because he had the power and didn't feel threatened but still. Of course, the scene ends with an obvious collision with a car and he goes about his merry way. But wouldn't he know what town he was in? Couldn't he have gone anywhere else? And I find it hard to believe nobody saw what he did at the end of that scene, and the injury that other person had doesn't just randomly happen, people will know it was a cut. That scene really didn't come back into play later, either.
I've looked up alternate versions for this film because it's apparently 2 hours and 5 minutes but the version I saw was just exactly 2 hours, but none seem to exist. Regardless, 'Marathon Man' is an excellent film and an example of the way that thrillers should be done. I also like the poster as well and the tagline, 'A thriller', as it leaves things open and doesn't really let you know anything about the unique thrill ride you are about to witness, which is something that modern thrillers need to learn how to do. I might have had a few things to say about the film but that really doesn't detract from the film at all and they are just some very odd things I picked up on. It's a cliché to say but they really don't put the same amount of effort into films like this anymore, as they once did. Smart, unique and effortlessly watchable, 'Marathon Man' is a perfect example of how to craft a thriller and undeniably has everything that belongs in a '70s film.
What I will say is that when the story was actually in full swing I found it riveting. I did tense up out of concern for Hoffman and started to get invested, wondering what would happen next. I also liked the way Marathon Man handled flashbacks, showing us just enough to understand what happened and why it made an impact on Hoffman. The acting performances are also quite good which is what you'd expect with that cast list. I think I just expected more. Even in the most famous scene, where Hoffman is being tortured, I had heard so much about it so I expected something considerably worse. The actual scene seemed mild compared to my expectations. The whole film lacked the kind of classic movie magic I anticipated, and even the ending was a bit of a let down. I don't want to dissuade anyone who has interest in exploring Marathon Man, because it's certainly not a horrible film. But I would temper your expectations and be prepared for a very slow start (which includes an absolutely stupid car crash that gets the plot rolling.) I wanted to like Marathon Man more, but sadly it didn't go the distance.