VOD film review: Suddenly (1954)
Ivan Radford | On 26, Nov 2020
Director: Lewis Allen
Cast: Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, Nancy Gates, James Gleason
Watch Suddenly online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Frank Sinatra is one of the most naturally charismatic figures to grace the silver screen. While 1953’s From Here to Eternity cemented his acting chops as more than twinkle-eyed charm, though, it was a year later that Ol’ Blue Eyes delivered one of the most surprising, dramatic turns of his career.
Suddenly sees Sinatra play John Baron, a hitman on a mission to kill the President of the United States. He’s a nasty, sociopathic killer and is willing to take a family hostage to achieve his end goal – and that’s exactly what he does, taking over an unsuspecting home on the hill overlooking the train station in a small California town, where the president’s scheduled to stop.
The result is a thriller that’s small in scale but high in tension, thanks to the superbly downbeat, menacing atmosphere. That’s largely driven by Sinatra’s performance, who is intense and determined with a chilling lack of scruples, but the script daringly shies away from any expected moments of explained motivations or humanising qualities, instead leaving its villain to be just that.
Sinatra gets a superb screen counterpart in none other than Sterling Hayden, who plays Sheriff Shaw, and the showdown between Baron and his gang and the local law enforcement coupled with the president’s security team is a brilliantly taut affair – from a TV repair guy to a young boy with a cap gun, no character is wasted or spared from the growing sense of peril. At the helm, Lewis Allen keeps a claustrophobic sense of foreboding atmosphere, as well as a non-stop momentum. The result is a film noir that deviates from the gumshoe and femme fatale conventions that colour the genre’s most well-known outings, but this gripping, dark thriller is as jet-black as they come.
Suddenly (1954) is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.