While most people would consider films like “Psycho,” or “Rear Window” to be top notch Hitchcock, I often insist that “Rope” is where Hitchcock manages to shine the most. At the very least it’s what I consider the best Hitchcock has ever been because he manages to challenge himself at every turn here. With “Rope,” adapted from an actual real life crime, Hitchcock lingers on his characters and his setting, adopted ten minute long extended takes that were the length of a normal camera magazine. With the long takes, Hitchcock is allowed to use the camera as a proxy for we, the spectator, who are watching and waiting to see if our villains Phillip and Brandon are going to be caught.
Although know that there is a chance that they might be caught for murdering one of their close friends, there is never a guarantee of it. After all, it took such a long time for Norman Bates to be foiled. “Rope” is set in one apartment where two elitist intellectually smug friends Phillip and Brandon decide to strangle their friend to death with a piece of rope. Acting as a philosophical exercise, they decide to see not only if they can keep his murder a secret, but if they can pull off the perfect murder. Granting themselves intellectually superior, they begin sparking debates among themselves and with their college professor Rupert Cadell.
They even bandy about the idea of murder and whether some people should be given the privilege of being given leeway on heinous crimes due to their societal standings, wealth, and or intellectual superiority. With the ten minute long takes, Hitchcock finds a way to convey the suspense of the narrative without his a lot of editing and cut aways. What makes “Rope” so riveting is that our two villains manage to stage a party and buffet spread out on their giant book case, the same book case that houses the corpse of their first and only murder victim. Constantly we’re rooting for them to be caught, but we’re also on baited breath watching as our inadvertent contributors to the crime scene brush against the book case, and come across it time and time again.
The belief of hiding in plain sight becomes a humongous contributing factor to the film’s inherent suspense and nail biting tension, and it’s masterful. Farley Granger and John Dall are absolutely fantastic, playing deliciously slimy sociopathic characters that are so sure they’re capable of pulling off their crime that they become sloppy. James Stewart is the icing on the cake as Rupert Cadell, a humble intellectual with a sense of morality constantly at odds with his protégés. “Rope” is a masterpiece, it’s a brilliant and bold crime thriller that re-invents the genre. It’s undoubtedly my favorite Hitchcock film.