Dir: Richard Brooks (The Killers; Key Largo; Blackboard Jungle; Sweet Bird of Youth; Lord Jim; $)
Seemed like a good time to watch this, having just seen Capote. Paul enjoys the way Brooks transposes the emotional power of the book to the film. And he notes what I find especially well done in the film, the generation of sympathy for the killers.
The utter randomness of the killings at the center of this story, the accidental nature by which this family was chosen, is expertly portrayed by Brooks. The edits between the characters, all peforming similar functions in order to preview the upcoming convergence of fate, is quite striking. So too are the dramatic shifts in tone between the stable Kansas farm house and the nomadic wanderings of the killer Both ends of this story are very different, and yet yoked together by events to come.
Blake is fine as Perry Smith, but Scott Wilson's slick Richard Hickock steals the show. That character is largely on the sidelines in Capote, but here is an equal partner facilitating the more subdued but more dangerous Smith. The two play very well off each other.
The film may get a tad gimmicky with Smith's father, but the effect of rain drops falling down the window at the end of the film is one of the more beautiful camera tricks I have seen. Many striking visuals infuse the work, such as the gallows at the end, the isolated farm house, the use of light in the night driving scenes. The visual text rises up to meet the depth of the script.
Among the most honest examinations of the death penalty and modern crime ever made. Essential viewing for all students of film, and now an even richer text given the equally strong Capote.