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Kubrick Konfidential #3: The Killing


A group of would-be criminals plan a dangerous robbery in Kubrick's "The Killing"

Stanley Kubrick’s third feature film is probably his first great one. Let’s face it: Fear and Desire (1953) and Killer’s Kiss (1955) are not very good films. There’s no denying it. They have some great moments, but overall in comparison with the work that followed, they’re a complete letdown… almost. The Killing (1956), however, changed things, if only slightly.

The premise is simple: a group of men plot to rob a racetrack on the day of an important horserace, but predictably (and unpredictably) thinks don’t go to plan. The film stars Sterling Hayden, who would later reappear more famously as General Jack “precious bodily fluids” D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Hayden gives a golden performance, as do the supporting cast members whose names slip my mind.

The story itself is clever and works well enough but what I really enjoyed was the way it told all the varying and complex differing points of views of tons of characters within a running time of approximately eighty minutes. Kubrick has done this very well. All the stories are captivating, and the jumps back and forth through time are particularly well-done for a film of its era. The screenplay is also tremendously well-written, and the film shot well, too.

The events of the fateful day all lead up to one of the best endings to a heist movie ever. It’s not a big twist or anything like that, it’s just beautiful and perfect and it involves a briefcase at the airport. A must-see for Kubrick fans and/or heist movie fans.

The Killing:

My Rating: 8/10