Sunday, September 23, 2012

Seconds (1966) Review

Seconds poster
Director: John Frankenheimer
Stars: Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph
Genre: Science fiction psychological thriller

What makes a film great? Great cinematography? Great plot? Great acting? Yes, yes, yes, among countless other things. Seconds has all these qualities and more, and in fact I can't really think of much Seconds does wrong.

The film follows a old man who realizes that his entire life was dull and pointless. He realized that he had done none of what he would have liked. He ends up at a company that offers to, at a price, fake his death and through vigorous plastic surgery make him a new identity. New face, new name, new life all together. So this man gets the operation and everyone he once knew (family, friends, co-workers) believes he died in a fire, when in reality he is living in a new home with a new face.

He encounters troubles and he eventually wants to change his face yet again, and give it another go. If there is one thing I'd wish this film did better, I wish they had focused more on the struggles of leaving one identity and becoming another. They didn't really focus all too much on this, and it seems it'd be an important part of a film like this. But, it's not much of a complaint being that what they did instead was still great.
"I couldn't help it, Charlie. I had to find out where I went wrong. The years I've spent trying to get all the things I was told were important - that I was supposed to want! Things! Not people... or meaning. Just things. And California was the same. They made the decisions for me all over again and they were the same things, really. It's going to be different from now on. A new face and a name. I'll do the rest. I know it's going to be different."
The cinematography is amazing, which is to be expected from the legendary James Wong Howe. I'd go as far as to say that the cinematography is the best part of the film. Each angle is chilling and twisted, each scene has a lingering sense of mystery and paranoia. Often it even feels surreal.

Rock Hudson strapped to a stretcher in Seconds

Visually, besides the great cinematography, it also has a very film noir look to it, visually and even in plot. All this creates a very intense atmosphere, almost trance-like and hypnotic, all which is complimented by a chilling soundtrack. 

Rock Hudson did a superb acting job, and though the character he plays could pretty much fit the mold of any film character of the time, it's still fun to watch.

There are some scenes that I'm sure will stick with me for quite some time, like the hippy wine party in the woods, or that abstract hallway. And how could you forget the bandaged face after surgery?

After surgery bandaging in Seconds

In conclusion Seconds is a superb film which makes good use of mystery and suspense, and can even be horrifying at times, not with shock but rather with great atmosphere. Combined with an intriguing plot and a satisfying ending, along with general greatness on nearly all fronts, you have yourself a very worthwhile film.

4.5/5 stars
Pros:
+Strong plot
+Great cinematography
+Chilling atmosphere and score
Cons:
-A few, minor missed potentials

Purchase Seconds on Amazon: DVD - VHS - Stream
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