The Wages of Fear by Henri-Georges Clouzot
I once read an article that considered this movie to be one of the greatest thrillers ever made. Perhaps it was one of the first cliffhangers, but I finished the movie feeling oddly unmoved. A group of drifters live in a squalid South American town, taking odd jobs and spending their days in the bar. When the local oil company offers them a job, they all leap at the chance. All they have to do is transport a shipment of nitroglycerine across rugged terrain.
It’s a dangerous job, and none of them are guaranteed to survive, and it’s from this premise that film tries to derive most of its tension. It’s a great premise, and the acting is all topnotch. But I just didn’t find the tense scenes all that tense. A lot of time is spent setting up the various suspenseful scenes, but I was never sitting on the edge of my seat.
As a character study, the movie is more interesting, as we watch former friends turn on each other, tough guys turn into cowards, and those who were once objects of ridicule rise to the occasion. All in all, an okay film, and maybe a classic in film history, but I just didn’t find it to be the great thriller it was made out to be.