North by Northwest

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North by Northwest – Hitchcock's Shining Moment

To the average viewer, each of Hitchcock's films are individually suspenseful, nerve-wrecking, and enticing. The 20th century director managed this by having a formulated and scientific approach to creating his movies. In North by Northwest, these elements all come together to create the epitome of Hitchcock.

A popular and reoccurring theme in Hitchcock's movies is the case of "the wrong man," or mistaken identity and being wrongfully accused of a crime. In North by Northwest, this is the driving element of the plot. Roger Thornhill, played by the 1960's dreamboat Carry Grant, is brought into a dark and confusing world of crime when he is mistaken for George Kaplin and kidnapped. This slip-up ends up with him framed for drunk driving, and Thornhill is driven to prove himself innocent. His motivation eventually shifts from explaining a silly legal matter to exposing a map of government spies and betrayals (it is notable that this film takes place and was shot during the Cold War). Unfortunately, Thornhill must skip town after again being framed – this time for a murder of a U.N. ambassador – and start his way on a 3000 mile race from New York to George Washington's giant stone face on Mt. Rushmore.

Another Hitch trademark of the film is what the director dubbed "the MacGuffin." The MacGuffin is an item that means nothing to the audience, but is the obsession or contributor to motivation for the characters in the film. The MacGuffin is merely a plot device – a means to create elaborate and suspenseful story. North by Northwest has several MacGuffins, each complicating and furthering the plot. The identity of George Kaplin becomes the initial MacGuffin, as it unites the main character with his antagonists and motivates him to follow them. Another MacGuffin is revealed later in the movie, once Thorndale becomes an honorary government agent; he must find a statue containing microfilm with...
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