Title – The Wages of Fear (1953)
Director – Henri-Georges Clouzot (Manon)
Cast – Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli, Peter van Eyck
Plot – When an oil well ignites in flames deep in a remote section of South American wilderness, a group of four men are enticed via significant financial incentives to transport a huge collection of fragile nitroglycerine to be delivered to the site via trucks.
“Wherever there’s oil, there’s Americans”
Review by Eddie on 18/06/2021
Adapted from Georges Arnaud’s famous novel (a novel that was also successfully adapted in the little seen but worth checking out 1977 William Friedkin feature Sorcerer), Henri-Georges Clouzot’s esteemed and ageless thriller is a benchmark in cinematic tension building and one of the great films of the era in which it was released.
Winning awards at the Cannes Film Festival and BAFTA awards upon release but only garnering true attention it deserved much later on as Western audience’s partook in Clouzot’s sweat inducing affair, The Wages of Fear has steadily etched itself into cinematic history as one of the most revered foreign films ever produced and easily one of the most taught and unrelenting experiences you could have as a filmgoer.
Starting off relatively slowly but surely as we spend a significant chunk of time in a poor township deep in South America where joblessness and desperation goes hand in hand with the big American oil companies that have made themselves at home in the area, Fear lulls us into a false sense of security centred around day to day activities and dramas that gives way to one of the most white knuckle men on a mission movies we’ve ever seen as Yves Montand’s charming Mario and a group of acquaintance’s are tasked with transporting tonnes of nitroglycerine via truck across precarious back roads and uncontrolled wilds.
Driven by the prospect of abundant riches should the job be completed successfully, Mario (and without a word of a lie, a fellow compatriot that is named Luigi) and his co-drivers face an uphill battle both figuratively and literally as the enormousness of their task at hand becomes ever more apparent and thanks to Clouzot’s tout direction, Georges Auric’s slick score and some wonderfully attuned editing, Fear is in a constant state of movement towards an explosive end game that is both unpredictable and memorable in equal measure.
Unlike many films of the time in which it was released, it’s hard pressed to find much wrong with such an ageless film outside of some slightly off early moments and some small instances of over the top acting, most elements of Clouzot’s film would be unlikely to be delivered better in today’s modern movie-making reality with Fear remaining a litmus test that other films cut from the same cloth must judge themselves against as this stunning thriller grips you like a vice and refuses to let go.
Final Say –
What may appear to simply be men driving some trucks is in fact one of tensest films produced. An ageless classic full of drama, heartbreak and the best use of characters known as Mario and Luigi in a feature film, The Wages of Fear is an old-timer you would do will to truck (track) down.
4 1/2 pools of oil out of 5