Marathon Man - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Marathon Man Reviews

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½ March 9, 2015
I like a good mind-bending movie where I have to puzzle out exactly what is going on. However I usually prefer if it's a symptom of a complex plot, unlike Marathon Man where the plot is quite basic but they refuse to talk about it until about half-way through the film. It's really aggravating watching just random scenes spliced together and trying to track it all when I have no framework for why any of it is happening until after Dustin Hoffman is taken captive for the infamous "Is it safe?!" scene. Let me save others the trouble if you decide to watch this movie. There's this old retired Nazi who's been hiding out in the middle of nowhere living off of diamonds that his brother stores for him in New York. However, when his brother dies, he must venture into New York himself to gather the rest of his diamonds. I'm going to avoid going into all the spoilers about how Dustin Hoffman gets involved, but that is the basic information I wish I knew going in so I could make some sense of this film. Of course even with that information I don't know if Marathon Man would have worked all that well for me. It still takes a ridiculously long time for Hoffman and Roy Scheider to connect the 2 disparate stories they spend the first half setting up.

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.
½ February 26, 2015
Really good Dustin Hoffman flick. This was also my first Lawrence Olivier movie as well and I got to say, he's made quiet an impression on me. The torture scene for this movie too is one for the ages
½ February 26, 2015
Really good Dustin Hoffman flick. This was also my first Lawrence Olivier movie as well and I got to say, he's made quiet an impression on me. The torture scene for this movie too is one for the ages
February 15, 2015
Despite this film's opening thirty-five minutes being mind-numilingly slow, the film picks up pace and becomes a very fun thriller thanks to fun performances from Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier.
½ February 7, 2015
A sometimes turgid, often transparent thriller carried by an immediate pace and a handful of chilling scenes with Laurence Olivier's memorable villain.
November 3, 2014
Superb filmmaking, and writing, and acting. An all-around masterpiece.
½ October 17, 2014
Hugely disappointing. It's a weak thriller if you even want to call it a thriller. I found it a little confusing, and didn't feel that everything really tied together. (First and only viewing - 10/16/2014)
July 15, 2014
I give the film credit for having a daring story and a sinister villain. However, the film itself couldn't reel me in. I wish it did.
½ July 2, 2014
Infamous for its "Is it safe?", Marathon Man is an original stylish political thriller.
½ June 23, 2014
Classic film with interesting plot and great acting especially from Lawrence Olivier as the villain
½ June 2, 2014
Great movie. One of my all time favorites. Suspenseful, nerve racking, and no gore (dentist scene may be seen by some as gore) and no unnecessary profanity.
May 29, 2014
Great characters, perfect suspense! I liked all the performances, they were amazing. There's only one flaw in my opinion, some plot points with the character of Elsa and the plot points involving the back story of Dustin Hoffman's father in this film. Except for that I think this a suspenseful thriller with good but not flawless writing and great performances.
May 23, 2014
Dentist ouch! Otherwise nothing special.
May 6, 2014
Very tense movie, and when I saw this movie, I was in my teens and it scared me to death. I hardly slept the night I saw this film. Great acting from Dustin Hoffman and a great plot with many twists and turns
May 5, 2014
With both Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier in lead roles, Marathon Man sounded like an interesting feature to check out.

Marathon Man is clearly a dated film because it takes a lot of time to establish its atmosphere, and in the process it has a lot of plot dynamics piling up on each other. And because of that, the entire first hour of Marathon Man is slow. There are little thrills and a lot of talking. Yet although there is too much talking there isn't enough dialogue to really explain what is happening thoroughly. Despite attempting to keep my focus in Marathon Man, I was really confused at the context of the story. There are many characters and the relevance of all of them gets confusing. I really wasn't sure what the motives of the enemies were or the relevance of the character Henry "Doc" Levy because the story attempted to explain too much within an hour and just didn't do it for me. I was left more confused than Thomas "Babe" Levy, so if the filmmakers' intention was to make audiences feel as confused as Thomas "Babe" Levy then they did a fine job. I do not think that is the case though, and so impatient audiences who can't handle the slow pace or make it to the second hour are not viewers that should take time out for Marathon Man.
Marathon Man redeems itself with an exceptional second hour. By the point of the second hour, Marathon Man has become incredibly intense. The story begins to touch upon some intense subject matter directly on the screen, starting with torture. The film picks up when the torture scene begins because from that point on Thomas "Babe" Levy is always at threat of being killed, and by enhancing the atmosphere through an edgy and intense musical score, the intensity never drops. It was Sam Raimi himself who said that once you make a film intense, you can't stop the intensity from there, and that is exactly what director John Schlesinger establishes after a clunky first half. The second act of Marathon Man more than makes up for the first part because it doesn't drop its tension for a second, and it makes it easy to feel just what Thomas "Babe" Levy is experiencing although from a third person perspective. So the intense atmosphere is the most admirable trait about Marathon Man. And it is also filmed very well thanks to its cinematography constantly focusing on the intense expressions of the characters' faces as they get involved with the situations they face off with. The cinematography captures everything and it does a lot for the actors because it reveals their facial emotions very strongly. So Marathon Man really does everything to ensure that it is rich with atmospheric tension, and it pays off because the second half of Marathon Man is some of the most intense cinema I have ever seen.
And importantly, the cast makes the brutality of the film feel realistic.
Dustin Hoffman role as the titular Marathon Man is great. As well as having a great athleticism due to his quick sprinting, Dustin Hoffman makes Thomas "Babe" Levy a character easy to identify with. He is a character dragged into a world that was thought to have finished many decades ago, and in the process he becomes victimised by the insane obsessions of criminals. And audiences are likely to cringe at his suffering because of how well Dustin Hoffman convinces viewers of his suffering. Dustin Hoffman puts up a hell of an intense lead performance and always has a sense of humanity in him which prevents him from falling into being nothing but a one dimensional character who becomes an unrealistic hero. Dustin Hoffman's tense and gritty performance is very strong and makes The Marathon Man consistently watchable.
But anyone can tell you that Laurence Olivier is the standout performance with his Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winning performance as Dr. Christian Szell. Of all of his performances, Laurence Olivier has never given one as sick and twisted as the experimental nazi dentist Dr. Christian Szell in Marathon Man. He executes his performance by being a manipulative character and keeping the evil nature of him subtle yet clear. The evil in him comes from what he does but not how he does it. Because everything that Dr. Christian Szell does keeps the emotional tension within him because he acts professionally while you can see the evil in the look of his eyes. The intense way that Laurence Olivier plays Dr. Christian Szell is remarkable, and the intensity in his scenes focused solely on him and Dustin Hoffman is incredible.
Roy Scheider and William Devane also give strong supporting performances.

So while Marathon Man has a cluttered and slow first half, the incredible acting and undeniable intensity in its second half more than make up for it.
April 23, 2014
A tight, tense thriller that's probably a little ahead of its time. Great performances by some legendary actors make it that much more intense. Some continuity issues and lack of closure keep it from being a true classic. Is it safe?!
½ April 20, 2014
A complicated thriller, but thoroughly entertaining.
½ April 12, 2014
An expert thriller by John Schlesinger. Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier are too notch. You won't want to go to the dentist after this film.
½ March 31, 2014
Pas si décevant, en fait.
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