Sunday, 9 March 2014

Movie Review #2: Wages of Fear

For those who want to know what a genuine thriller is please watch ’Wages of Fear’.  If you think that jump cuts, intuitive camera angles, boo moments and over-the-top-music would amount for a thriller, please look somewhere else because this film works on characterization.  It is in the desperation of the protagonists, we experience the thrills rather than artificial plot convolutions.

Somewhere in South America, an oil company hires four desperate truck drivers for $2000 to transport highly inflammable nitroglycerine to put out a fire in one of their oil fields.  The problem is the road to the oil field is so rough that it is a literal death trap.  A tiny spill of nitroglycerine on the way is a sure way to end life.  The four drivers, two on each truck start their final journey, which is capable of making even a daredevil into a coward.

’Wages of Fear’ is not a thrill-per-second movie.  Most part of the first half has nothing but character building.  We get to know a bunch of unemployed expatriates stuck in a land of misery.  Their only way out is to get a job that pays their return ticket to the outside world.  Mario (Yves Montand) an idler with no job, Jo (Charles Vanel) the tough guy who is ex-gangster, Bimba (Peter van Eyck) a quiet person, Luigi (Folco Lulli) the easy going chap are the four stranded men.  We see the interaction between these guys.  Jo and Luigi often get into fights where the former overpowers the latter convincingly.
The journey starts normally with no incidents at first.  But, the impending danger of transporting such a volatile cargo, makes a big impression on Jo if not all of the men.  The tough Jo begins to crumble due to stress.  In fact he even gets humiliated by Mario who revered him as a leader once. That is the power of money.  It will change a coward to a hero and vice versa. 

During the journey, the men face many hurdles.  They overcome these hurdles either through common sense or through sheer stupid courage motivated by money.  What makes us sit at the edge of the seat is not because of the dangerous cargo but the men’s indifferent and careless attitude in handling such a danger.  For each hurdle, Jo reaches his new low of cowardice, where the others gain more courage.  The positive side is these men develop a bond among themselves.  They plan together and care for each other in the wake of danger.  But on the negative side, Mario is even ready to run over the truck on his partner to reach his destination.  The end is an expected poetic justice.  Danger will consume those who play with it.  

’Wages of Fear’ is an ageless classic.

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