Saturday, December 10, 2011

Seven Days in May

In the aftermath of JFK's assassination, a new genre sprung up within the media: the political thriller. They became immensely popular during the 1960's, and still remain so to this day.

One of the few geniuses of this genre was John Frankenheimer. After all, his magnum opus is The Manchurian Candidate, made just a year before (and shares startlingly similar aspects with) JFK's assassination. He also made the excellent Seconds, whose main theme was trust no one. Between those two, Frankenheimer made Seven Days in May.

Seven Days in May was released in 1964, the same year as Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe. In those three films, JFK's assassination and the Cold War could still be felt. They're felt the most in Seven Days in May, mainly how our own government was close to having similar events as in the film.

There are many aspects of Seven Days in May that make it excellent. Naturally Frankenheimer's direction, but also the performances. Both Fredric March's President Jordan Lyman and Kirk Douglas' Col. Martin "Jiggs" Casey won't back down when the going gets rough. Burt Lancaster's Gen. James Mattoon Scott is ruthless and spews venom when he speaks. Ava Gardner's Ellie Holbrook is still healing from her past with Scott (they were former lovers), but that doesn't stop her from wanting revenge. The true star of Seven Days in May isn't March, Douglas, Lancaster or Gardner; it's Rod Serling's script. How the Academy failed to nominate it is beyond me.

Seven Days in May is still effective after all these years. To those that think otherwise, view it instead as a retrospective of 1960's politics. Nerves were frayed during those times, and Frakenheimer encased those feelings in his work.

My Rating: *****

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