In a South American village, four desperate men are hired to drive two trucks full of nitroglycerin to a remote oil field. As they journey through rough terrain on a suicide mission, each bump in the road tests their courage and their nerves.
When someone else is driving, I’m scared.
The Wages of Fear is a slow burn of a thriller. With a running time of two and a half hours, the film spends a lot of time establishing its protagonists and their motivations to take on such a dangerous mission. I was initially surprised at how much time was spent on character development as I had heard about how tense the movie is. But once the four characters go on their treacherous expedition, the suspenseful moments never stop, as they have to carefully maneuver through each obstacle they encounter while risking their lives in the process. Even the smaller, mundane moments on their journey are heightened because of what’s at stake. And because of the time spent on getting to know the characters at the start of the film, watching two trucks drive through rough roads is made much more suspenseful and authentic as each decision could make or break the outcome of their trip.
Along with being a well-crafted suspense film, The Wages of Fear presents a riveting character study, unraveling their personalities in dire situations. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot knows just how to get in our heads as we watch the film, sometimes inverting our expectations of what the characters will do. With tense moments that are both external and internal for the characters, we can feel the weight of their choices. But instead of enduring the film’s hardships, we’re left sitting at the edge of our seats, not knowing what’s coming next.
The Wages of Fear (1953)
Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Starring: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli, Peter Van Eyck
Oscar Nominations: N/A
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