Seconds is a disturbing, sad, yet beautifully shot look at the impossibility of second chances, and the danger of trusting big corporations to handle your life. Though a flop on release, it has since been praised for it's ahead of its time themes, a great performance by Rock Hudson, and fantastic cinematography.
Rock Hudson truly is great in this, playing a conflicted man perfectly, and really making you feel the horror, and pain of his situation. It's speculated that he played this part so well, because he was grappling with his own issues of identity, and hiding hiding himself from the world. Rock Hudson was a complete heartthrob in his time, but it was all a facade, he was actually a closeted homosexual during the 1950's, and 60's. This story about being someone else was clearly a very personal film for him.
However the biggest star of this film is the cinematography. Cinematographer James Wong Howe does a fantastic job using mounted cameras, and handheld, shaky shots to communicate an amazingly haunting atmosphere, in director John Frankenheimers wonderful film.
The script is based off a popular novel by the same name, and communicates its themes of existentialism, dystopian futures very well. Seconds was made during a time where plastic surgery was beginning to take off, and people wanted more than ever to be someone else, or to be like celebrities.
Frankenheimer wanted to make a film that showed the ugly truth. No amount of surgery, or changes in physical appearance will change who you are inside, the person will still carry the same emotional baggage, and inadequacies they desperately want to get away from. It's a lesson that I think is even more relevant now, and should be seen by young people especially. We live in an age that desperately promotes reinvention, and wanted to the center of attention. This film shatters that idea gloriously, and is easily a haunting, important classic, that will only get more relevant as time passes.
This a movie that, for having been made 51 years ago, feels strangely contemporary. It has been a clear influence on modern thrillers, particularly David Fincher's "The Game".
Also, is it possible to get tired of Rock Hudson's mind-blowing work? I don't think so.
Famous for its gorgeously unnerving cinematography, Frankenheimer's film goes beyond stylistic perfection and commits to probing, immensely honest truths through disorienting content and a horrific premise. When faced with the idea of a second chance at life, man would absolutely jump at the opportunity to escape from their daily minutia in a desperate attempt to feel alive once again (as Hudson's character does), free from the self-imposed prison of detachment one constructs in a life that begins to feel routine out of a misguided sense of self-preservation. Frankenheimer makes it clear that this desperate reinvention would provide no clearer sense of a perfect identity, and rightfully so; the notion that constant renewal would in any way allow for a higher state of being is nonsense, as the high would begin to lose its edge quicker and quicker each time before ultimately trapping the participant in the same prison they were attempting to escape before.
It also raises questions about perception, both of ourselves and of others, utilizing mirrors, photographs, and memory to portray the frustratingly fluid nature of identity that always seems to be just out of reach. This acknowledgment plays into its critique of the American dream, our identity crises leading to the need for the material as a means of validation, driving the machine that profits off of human suffering. Ultimately, "the company" portrayed in Seconds needs to self-perpetuate endlessly, as all means of production do in the US; if you come between them and their bottom line, you end up eliminated. The cruel falsity of our individualistic freedom within such a system is on full display in the film's final moments, the psychological horror exiting the realm of the psyche and moving into that of the social sphere.
The endless amount of critical threads made available in Seconds is astonishing, its vibrancy and depth ignored upon release in an unforgivable instance of critical ignorance. This isn't just an extended episode of The Twilight Zone; without a doubt, there's nothing else quite like it.
Good stuff! Give it a rental.