The Killing (1956)

Written & Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Gone are the days of Shocktober and in are the days of Noirvember, even though I am a few days late on getting started. Film noir has always fascinated me, and yet I have not seen much of it. The ones I have seen have intrigued me, and neo-noir films like L.A. Confidential remain on my list of favorite films of all time. But what makes this particular film unique is the fact that it is directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, in fact one of his first efforts before hitting it really big with his remarkable style that brought us Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Killing is a much smaller film, but that is part of what makes it work.

Despite being “small”, the cast is not, complete with a number of different men. All these players are necessary however, because they are planning on knocking off a racetrack for $2 million. The leader of the pack is a smart guy (Sterling Hayden) with all the ideas. But he doesn’t see the complications of one of his men’s wife (Marie Windsor) and her man on the side who conspire to steal the money once it has already been stolen. With so many people involved, is there any way the plan can go smoothly? Is there anyway they can get away without someone being greedy? Without being caught by the cops? One can dream.

One thing can be certain, these men really thought out their plan. It is a beautifully orchestrated and designed plan that fully incorporates all the talent they have assembled. I found it interesting how they cooked up this plan, with so many pieces. Many times you see heist films and the characters are either too greedy, hiring too few people to do the job because they want a bigger cut, or f they do have enough people, someone slips up and the who plan goes haywire. They strike a good balance here and it makes the heist a lot of fun to watch. But it is fun to watch because of how it is choreographed by writer/director Kubrick. He really handles the storytelling well here, creating tension and juggling the multiple aspects of the robbery.

But what really surprised me, and in a good way, was how simple the film was. From Kubrick I have come to expect, perhaps not convoluted stories, but less than straightforward ones with short runtimes. This may be the result of being one of his earlier works (Paths of Glory worked well like this too), but I would like to also think it is because Kubrick had a handle on what he was trying to do with this story, that he knew all this story needed was a simple delivery. The editing and delivery of the many facets to the robbery, the roles of each of these men is intercut nicely and timed very well. I could have really done without the annoying voiceover which explained the timeline however.

This is not the perfect movie, it is not the most entertaining movie, but when, in the same day, I also saw the new film Tower Heist it is not difficult to be able to tell the difference between a good heist film and a vastly mediocre one where no tension or really interesting set up is developed. This film is the former. I had a fun time with the film, in spite of and in fact perhaps because of the extremely hokey moments in the film which were quite laughable, like a few of the death scenes which could have maybe been executed a little bit better. Some of the dialogue was not top notch either, but that still does not mean that I didn’t have a fun time with this short film. I just also didn’t think it was the greatest thing I’ve seen.


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