James Smith’s quick-fire insight into the world of movies.  Here he checks out Hitchcock, a look at a period of the rotund movie legend’s life during the making of smash horror, Psycho.

Directed by Sacha Gervasi

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson

Anthony Hopkins appears to saunter into challenging roles, perform them with consummate ease, and without a hint of slipping on that banana skin lying in wait for all actors.  Hitchcock is no different.  Teaming up with Helen Mirren who plays the bumptious director’s wife, Alma Reville, he immerses himself into the character of a brilliant but sometimes anguished man.  The transformation of Hopkins with prosthetic make-up is far better than the trailers and promotional material would imply, and with his masterly portrayal, it’s easy to forget that it is actually Hopkins behind the mask.

Despite Hitchcock’s stubborn, belligerent, and downright infuriating manner, the interpretation is positive and delivered with humour - a quality no doubt the great man had in abundance, as well as his well-documented foibles.  In fact, despite the brooding nature of the master filmmaker, Hitchcock is a surprisingly cheery film and breezily directed by Sacha Gervasi who does not take the oft trodden path to dwell on a tortured soul.

In somewhat of an irony, Gervasi’s film’s structure and storyline is direct and unsurprising.  With his clever plots and ability to build suspense, it would be fascinating to know if Hitchcock himself would turn in his grave at this lighthearted romp through the ups and downs of making the classic chiller.  The simplicity, however, in no way hinders what is an entertaining and astonishingly gripping account.  This is achieved in part by sublime casting throughout, that includes James D’Arcy who looks scarily like Anthony Perkins, and a sprightly Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh.  The interplay, though, between Mirren and Hopkins is an indication of these actors’ rightful place amongst movie royalty.  We are plunged into the domestic, emotional, and creative turmoil undergone to make one of the greatest films of all time.  Mirren’s picture of the subdued and apparently undervalued, Alma Reville, is painted with great conviction and skill - Hopkins and Mirren bounce off each other in what is a moving and satisfying collaboration.

Gervasi intelligently makes Hitchcock a story in its own right - avoiding the temptation to ride along on the bandwagon of the original horror movie.  Indeed, the vibrant colour and bustle of the studio sets depicted during production is much departed from our vision of the monochrome menace that we see in Psycho.  This is a further illustration of the filmmaker’s lot and how the master was able to detach himself from reality.

Review by @jsmithwriter