A former jewel thief is framed and must find the real thief while being pursued by a beautiful woman.
John Robie (Cary Grant) is a retired cat burglar who specialized in jewels. Now quietly living on the French Riviera. His peace and quiet are interrupted by a string of robberies very close to his previous MO. He soon realizes he needs to find the real thief before he becomes and inmate in a French prison.
Complicating matters are his old companions from the French Resistance. Laying low in a nearby restaurant. They blame him for the recent crimes and resent the heat being brought to bear on their own activities by the local authorities.
Further troubles include the flirtatious Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly) and mother Jessie, wealthy Americans that Robie hopes to use to trap the counterfeit cat burglar. He soon finds himself falling in love with the beautiful, bored and intelligent Frances.
Alfred Hitchcock films can be difficult to review. The man is a legend just by himself and even his less successful films are often a masterclass in film making. Often his films succeed despite cast, continuity and script problems that would fell a lesser director. Another issue is that Alfred Hitchcock was highly experimental throughout his career. His success and stature as a director allowed him to embrace new techniques and art theories (IE color theory in the film Topaz, the unusual editing style of Rope), simply to see how they would work on screen. It can be easy to both over rate or under rate his films simply because of the amount of history and critical opinion surrounding them.
This is one of Hitch’s more “open” films in that there are many outdoor shots. Hitchcock films tend to be set up 1 of 2 ways. Either as near stage productions such as Dial M For Murder, Rope and Rear Window, where most of the scenes are shot in studio under very exacting control and often almost entirely in indoor settings.
The second type is a more open and dynamic approach with more outdoor shots, North by Northwest, Sabotage and this film, To Catch A Thief being the best examples I can think of. While they still use extensive, controlled sets. They have a distinctly different, more open feel to them.
The shooting style seems to be related to the atmosphere Hitchcock wanted for a particular film, his more “stagey” productions usually have a deliberate, claustrophobic feel to them and emphasize internal pressures among the cast. The second type tends to have more of an external force acting on the protagonists.
To Catch A Thief is definitely on the lighter side of Hitch’s style, a very light and breezy romantic comedy, with beautiful atmosphere and witty dialog throughout the film. While there is suspense and mystery, it takes a back seat to the romance between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly’s characters.
The strong chemistry among the cast helps keep the film from falling flat over it’s 1 hour 46 minute run time. While not always popular among hard core Hitch fans, I find this film to be one of the most approachable of his films, with a charming cast, beautiful setting and excellent script to back them up.
To me, this showcases Hitch, Grant and Kelly at the peak of their creative powers and is a great choice for film fans of all types.
Verdict 4.5 Gavels out of 5
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most accessible and fun films. An excellent choice for someone just starting out with his films. Not as intense or inaccessible as some of his more critically popular films.