For Reel

Sabotage (1936)
October 8, 2016, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
4.5 Stars
sabotageHitchcock’s Sabotage is among his most uncompromising films, the rare example of the showman toying with the audience’s expectations in ways that are almost entirely unpleasurable. The film’s controversial setpiece, in which a boy unwittingly carries a bomb on a bus and many innocent people are killed, was a sequence that the director later regretted, feeling as though it alienated audiences too much. Sabotage is indeed more confrontational than many of Hitchcock’s films—whereas his portrayals of violence were often extraordinary in that they were the culmination of emotional passions, Sabotage views violence directly and with a disturbing indifference. The scene in which Sylvia Sidney stabs her husband (Oscar Homolka) has no cathartic aftertaste—it’s unclear whether Homolka has walked into the knife or Sidney has stabbed him, and the film’s cold portrayal of the act foregrounds the effect it will have on Sidney’s character rather than serving as a cheap thrill. If Sidney and Homolka are unconvincing as a couple and the detective played by John Loder is dull, the film’s larger concerns—about both the indifference of a violent act and the lasting effect it has on the survivors—are successful enough to rank Sabotage as one of Hitchcock’s very best British films.