A film for 'them' [Schlesinger's term for a commercial property to please a studio] is a crudely themed exploiter (P. Kael's apposite notion of a "Jewish revenge fantasy") lifted by an energetic eye for circumstantial detail but lacking the director's usual humanity (given the modus perhaps not to be expected). All this provides though is obfuscating decoration for something unbecoming and unpleasant in most respects
It's fascinating watching the typical romantic and family relationship threads from the first half of the film come together in such a way that makes it masterfully tense and thus deeply entrenched into 70's political paranoia in the 2nd. Jumbled in themes, but it's pulled off with such confidence, even in the confusing moments, that its grip is simply beautiful. Many memorable scenes and the actors are all perfect.
"S: Is it safe? B: You're talking to me? S: Is it safe? B: Is what safe? S: Is it safe? B: I don't know what you mean. I can't tell. S: Is it safe? B: Tell me what the "it" refers to. S: Is it safe? B: Yes, it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it. S: Is it safe? B: No. It's not safe, it's.. very dangerous, be careful." After watching, I bought the DVD & gave it to my dentist as a present.
'Is it safe?' Exciting thriller from Schlesinger adapted from the William Goldman book that stands up an enjoyable paranoia thriller with some quite wonderful acting turns. Plotting issues aside this is visually opulent film with exceptional cinematography by Conrad Hall. Hoffman and Olivier both so memorable here especially in their scenes together though it should be noted that Roy Scheider is dynamite as well.
When the old woman nazi camp survivor starts yelling "Der Weisse Engel!" to Olivier's Szell as he is spotted in the streets of Manhattan, the tension is so palpable. The look of contained panic in Olivier's face at this moment is not only brilliant but a tour-de-force of acting
3 1/2 out of 5 stars. Worth watching for John Schlesinger's direction and Conrad Hall's cinematography alone. Marathon Man is one of those great paranoid 70s thrillers that won't ever be seen again. Despite the story noticeably crumbling at a few points, I was legitimately creeped and/or freaked out at a few points. I really wish I saw this sooner.
It's a fun movie, no doubt, but it's not as amazing as people have made it out to be. The infamous dentist scene really isn't that terrifying; in fact I found the ending in the sewer plant to be more magnetic and tragic. The problem is it's obviously a thin script and a bunch of jumbled plot elements, but it shows. For a film that attempts something similar, but succeeds, check out De Palma's Blow Out.