This here is a resounding example that style and cinematography alone, even in the most classic and classy setting, won't ever make up for a film's plot and development shortcomings.
Alain Delon is the samurai, and the little bird in his cage he's got in his lonely sleazy apartment continually letting out a monotonous shriek is an echoing mirror of his own solitude and separation from the regular life. He's dressed in a classic trench-coat and hat, and wears that classic film-noir mug on his face the whole film: impassible, unchanging and emotionless. The film also does a good job at playing into the more technical details of the action: the detective work and the strategies and intricacies employed by the many various parties involved to get what they want.
Stylistically the film has a somewhat romantic feel to it, with a surprisingly novel and modern soundtrack for that time: superbly composed mixing modern organ tones with an older and grander baroque style; while visually the film is very grim, and intentionally very silent: the entire opening chunk is deliberately scriptless for a good portion, as to set a terribly sober film-noir atmosphere. The film leaves a visual impression of monochromatic vistas, strongly grey-ish and a discreet pale.
The dialog is very good as well and properly conducted in key-scenes requiring a strong onscreen presence from its actors: Delon, Périer, Delon's wife...all do well and put in a very believable shift. It should also be noted there's a lot of implied, unsaid language at work: long eye contact between characters, lengthy wordless scenes showing a character on his own...all of which convey meaning, that bit more subtly.
The problem though is it's a film that works for about an hour and fifteen, but then struggles to gather enough momentum to keep the enthusiasm going. We're sold what the story is about and what the film is in its essence well before the end, so why go on that much longer when all the goods have been exposed ? It seems to lag and drag its plot to the very last scene, which really does seem far from reach. They surely could've helped it with the pacing past that hour mark, and they certainly could've added more elements to strengthen the plot (another character ? another subplot ? less linear predictable development...) and give the viewer incentive for his full attention. Considering its legendary/cult status, it's certainly overrated - for despite its obvious qualities, it bears obvious faults that aren't negligible as a whole. It's good, but certainly not anywhere near transcendent, and ultimately it's too long and hollow for its own good: the plot is just too bare and simple - stretches out too long.
Hitman Jef Costello is a perfectionist who always carefully plans his murders and who never gets caught. One night however, after killing a night-club owner, he's seen by witnesses. His efforts to provide himself with an alibi fail and more and more he gets driven into a corner.
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