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Film Studies 101
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Dustin Hoffman
Laurence Olivier
Roy Scheider
William Devane
Marthe Keller.
Directors
John Schlesinger.
Screenwriters
William Goldman.
Running Time
125 minutes

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Marathon Man


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Plot
When Thomas Babington’s secrete agent brother is murdered before his eyes, he become embroiled in a plot involving smuggled diamonds and Nazi war criminal, former SS dentist Szell, the White Angel of Auschwitz.


Review

The only movie to truly deliver the visceral power of a dental drill, John Schlesinger’s taut, well written if far-fetched and baffling thriller, is the film that gives you tooth ache in a good way. “Is it safe?” Those words fire a Pavlovian shock of pain through the upper molars for anyone who has taken in the film, an empathic response to former Nazi Laurence Olivier drilling away inside Dustin Hoffman’s innocent mouth, while asking that obscure question. He’s after info, a clearance to sell his ill-gotten diamonds (stolen from Jews during the war), but Hoffman’s luckless Babe has no idea what he’s on about.
 
It’s a moment of icy genius, a starburst of cinema’s knee-jerk powers that almost overpowers all the knitted paranoia of the rest of the movie. William Goldman, a sharp clean screenwriter, sprawls about in unusually complicated fashion — here is a tale of a CIA black ops organisation called The Division who have dipped dirty fingers on all sides, including housing former Nazis, and the clean brother of one doomed operative who doesn’t possess the vital secret everyone thinks he does.
 
The title refers to Babe’s compulsion to run, something that will end up serving him in good stead. Hoffman threw himself into the part with familiar zeal, you half expect he required Olivier to actually drill his teeth. Oliver’s immortal response to the Method madness going on — “Why not try acting? It’s much easier” — harkens from this very shoot, although there is the air of the apocryphal about the story. The ease with which Olivier transforms into this chilling refuge from the swollen evil of the past grants the film a resonance beyond its basic trappings. In real terms, there is nothing more than the motorised scheming of Goldman’s script and John Schlesinger’s up-close style going on, but his actors give its stretched ideas a seriousness and shock value, beyond putting your teeth on edge.


Verdict
Cult thriller that continues to resonate with audiences


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Marathon Man
Empire Star Rating

RE: Iz it safe...??

This is one of those movies that you watch it late night on BBC2 or whatever and you kind of take it for granted when you are younger.   Only when you watch it over and over it suddenly strikes you that this movie is not just good; it is brilliant.   Hoffman is good as the young brother of the underrated Roy Scheider's agent, and of course Olivier is also pretty good as the Dentist!   Full of shocks and surprises, with a slimy William Devane (I always like him getting... More

Posted by Private Hudson at 12:37, 08 August 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Iz it safe...??

What a timeless classic with Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier giving amazing performances, probabaly one of the best performances Olivier has ever given...totally remarkable film that keeps you on the edge of your seat!!!! 10/10!!!!!!!!! ... More

Posted by MartyW at 23:29, 04 August 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Iz it safe...??

A quality movie, perhaps Hoffman's best ever role! Adapted suberbly from William Goldman's novel this is a modern day classic......'Is It Safe' just gives you the shakes and a dentists chair will never be the same!     ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Geek at 07:45, 03 August 2006 | Report This Post


Iz it safe...??

Still puts the willies up me, classic movie. Like jonson I thought they'd done a remake for a second, that would have been very very bad. Superb movie making from everyone involved, directors, actors, writer, everyone knocks it out the park. If you haven't seen this, do yourself a favour and buy it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MickeyBricks at 16:48, 30 July 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Marathon Man

I know it's obviously a re-release, but is having 2006 in brackets correct? I thought for a moment I'd stumbled across a remake....noooooooooooooo!! Fantastic film, brilliantly acted and Olivier is one of the scariest and most horrible characters in film. "Is it safe?". I shudder at the line. The panic on the woman's face when she spots a (crapply disguised) Szell...."The White Angel!!" adds to the horror of the movie, and I love the slight twist (SPOILER) when Hoffman's friend (... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonson at 09:26, 29 July 2006 | Report This Post



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