After a police detective named John Ferguson causes the death of a police officer due to his acrophobia during a rooftop chase, he retires from that job. He is soon hired by a former college acquaintance of his to keep an eye on his wife, because he fears that she might commit suicide as she believes that she is possessed.
Around the 80 minute mark, it seemed like the movie was about to end. It seemed as if the climax came to be, and the viewer thought that they knew what kind of film it was going to be. However, the viewer becomes shocked to find out that the film is continuing on. The viewer wonders: "What else do they have left to do?". At first, I thought that the movie was going to lose steam as the final third is, admittedly, a little bit slower than the rest of the film. However, the dream sequence gave me a feeling that I was not wasting my time. It interested me a lot, and I was curious to find out how the movie was going to end. This all led up to a shocking and unexpected ending which left a strong impact on me. The plot twist at the end made the film a lot better, and it encouraged me to watch the film again as I wondered how the movie was going to feel on a 2nd viewing.
Looking back at the movie, I noticed how John's acrophobia wasn't present in that many scenes. It was only present a few times in the movie. At first, I thought that it was a bit underutilized. However, after I thought more about how the plot twist at the end effected the film before it, I came to a conclusion that it did not have to be used more than it was. John did not have acrophobia, because Hitchcock simply wanted to add it in for suspense. It was put in the movie as it was essential for the movie's ending to work. If it were to be used any more times in the film, it would've started to feel redundant. Hitchcock did all of the primary tasks with that element without overdoing it.
The acting in this film was really good. James Stewart as John Ferguson did a good job as the lead performance. His performance was pretty solid all around. He provided all the emotions and reactions which were required for his role. Nothing more and nothing less. Kim Novak gave a really great performance as well. She played 2 characters who each had different personalities. When she was Madeleine Elster, she played a woman who looked hopeless and terrified. She was able to do it without sounding annoying or over-the-top. When she played Judy Barton, her role seemed more meaty and strong. She did a good job transitioning between both of these characters. As the movie continued on, I started to notice some subtlety in her performance. She clearly stole the show. They were great as the 2 main leads. I had no particular issues with any of the other actors and actresses.
The film is also pretty to look at. Views of the city and the streets are gorgeous. Some of the shots show dozens upon dozens of buildings. Those shots are overwhelming. Also, some of the other shots in different places around the city look nice as well such as the art museum and the graveyard. Also, it's hard to forget the opening scene where 3 of the characters were running across the rooftops with the evening sky in the background. Also, there's the haunting camerawork in the dream sequence which gives out an unsettling presence. Out of all of Hitchcock's films that I've seen so far, I like the cinematography in this film the most.
In conclusion, this was a well-acted and well-shot crime film which had a very memorable storyline and ending. Is it the best film of all time though? I wouldn't say so. There are deeper films than this one. "Citizen Kane" also has more layers to it and it's a more influential and important film. Also, I enjoyed "Rear Window" a little more than this one. However, this is still a really great film. I can understand why a lot of people like it. It's one of the best Hitchcock films that I've seen so far.
I struggled with Jimmy Stewart's character in this film. I thought he was set up as a fairly noble guy and I liked him. However as the movie progresses he gradually becomes more and more creepy. It was bad enough when he's undressing and making out with another man's wife, but that final act with the clothes and hair obsession had me squirming in my seat.
I also had difficulty with the romance in Vertigo. It's a problem I often have with movie love affairs, because I don't see enough build-up for these two people to claim they are in love. I was still trying to get over this guy kissing a friend's wife and the next thing I know he's confessing his love for her? It was tough for me to accept.
The softening of the romantic blow came through the plot. That's where Vertigo really shines. I was delighted by the mystery because I so desperately wanted to discover what was going on. I longed for a real explanation and yet I kept wondering if it was actually something mystical that was driving the story.
The first reveal of the truth was a true shocking moment for me and suddenly I was totally amazed how they fooled me. The fact that they had to insert a scene explaining it all in words right after the visual explanation felt a bit forced, but maybe they're just trying to cater to the people who can't put the pieces together on their own.
The third act was probably the weakest part of Vertigo. It felt like the movie was rambling after the reveal and dragging things out so long when I was just waiting for it all to finally hit the fan. Then the final moments were intense and uncomfortable. I was back on board and anxiously awaiting the dramatic conclusion. When it came it was so sudden, and odd that I wasn't ready for it and almost said "Wait, that's it?"
I didn't love Vertigo. There are other Hitchcock films that are much more effective for me. However, there were elements of genius that I connected with in this film. The mystery gripped me, the visuals were stunning, the score was intense, and the acting was great. I doubt I'll revisit Vertigo, unlike my preferred Hitchcock movies, but I can recognize it's a very well-made film.
A very strange yet smart and unpredictable film that also is visually stunning.