What a great spy movie!
The whole idea of Cary Grant as a recruiter working to turn an asset, then getting them to infiltrate the target and working his agent-in-place was wonderfully executed. Problems of communication, asset limitations and blown cover in a movie this old were fantastically done. Yes it drags at time and yes there has been a paradigm shift in entertainment that can make it off-putting but it was such a classy handling of classic espionage set pieces that who cares?
I unfortunately found myself liking Claude Rains despite his apparent pedophilia, his current colleagues and his Hitchcock mother.
I don’t know if this one will make my top 10 but maybe because it was actually very very good. Even if you’re a casual fan of spy/espionage/etc. movies then you would definitely enjoy this one.
Ingrid Bergman was great and so were Grant and Rains. My biggest beef with movies from this era are when confusions could be very easily cleared up by a 5 minute conversation and one party just stands and stares at the other one awkwardly. I know you’d have no plot if everything was worked out but why give them the chance at all then? And sometimes worse is when a character goes off the rails and outright lies about stupid pointless shit. It happens here and it happened in 39 steps with Hannay and Pamela in the hotel room. It’s probably a stylistic difference between eras but it just kills the scene. A final note in that vein. I am starting to think that the women and villains are so much more engaging than the hero is that it allows the men watching to sink into the lead. The character they wish to be most is more appealing if they are somewhat of a blank slate. It’s a neat trick to keep them from being boring and yet not enough of an actual person to prevent the male audience from associating with them. Then you toss in some strong female characters that are complex and beautiful to win over both male and female audiences and you’ve got an enduring classic.
TL;DR Go watch Notorious (1946 not 2009)
UPDATE: Before I forget, thanks to Hitchcock this is actually a spy movie where you get moments of genuine tension and anxiety instead of a constant stream of face-punching.