Sometimes a film surprises you, really throws you for a loop in the best of ways, and then, maybe a week or two after you’ve seen it, it has already faded from your memory. This was my initial experience with Seconds, a heady science-fiction film that’s admittedly rather low on the “sci-fi” elements, but definitely makes you think about its topics. I saw it, I liked it, and I moved on, not even taking any notes about it, as this was before I’d started that precursor to my opening this blog. Well, after seeing it again tonight, I almost want to slap my past self upside my own head, for even daring to not pay full attention to this flick, if indeed that was what I did the first time around. This is a fantastic film, and I will be sure to keep it in my memory as much as I can from here on out.
A well-off but ultimately unhappy man is approached by an anonymous man and given an address; later that day, he is phoned by an old friend he had previously thought dead, and through a fortuitous and carefully planned series of manipulations and coercings, he is led into the hands of the Company, who fake the deaths of unhappily wealthy people and give them new identities, new faces, new lives. After he (through blackmail, as well as a heart-to-heart with another older gentleman) accepts the treatment, he is reborn as Tony Wilson, and free to make of his new life what he will. However, there’s no guarantee he will be happy, and as pieces of the puzzle are made more clear, the newly-minted Mr. Wilson begins to second-guess his decision, and look for a way out. This film and its plot, down to the barest points, is nothing short of brilliant; it presents an enigma of a riddle, compounds upon it, and by the end, everything is tied together in a nice neat bow. This was my second time viewing this film, and it was just as entertaining as the first; I absolutely love films that reward multiple viewings and are highly rewatchable, and this was definitely one of those films. As for the technicals, they were downright impressive. The film revels in oblique and unflattering camera angles and shots, as well as warped imagery, all to get under your skin and make you question the level of sanity that is going on, and it works beautifully. The opening credits are pretty trippy, and give a lot of weight to the mental gymnastics sort of film that Seconds aspires to be. The only real qualm I had is that ever-recurring one of mine; the overdubbing, on occasion, was noticeable, but I was so entertained by the rest of the film, I was easily able to forgive it this small flaw.
I was so amazed by this film that I was surprised I had never heard of its director, John Frankenheimer, even despite the fact that he also directed the original version of The Manchurian Candidate, a film that also made the list and that I have seen and reviewed. Apparently Mr. Frankenheimer had quite the career in the 60s, which ultimately peaked and went on a decline right around when this film was released, as the reception for this one was less than stellar. To that, I can only say; I understand. So many other great films of the time were not appreciated when they were first released, only to find their audiences as the years went on. This is certainly one of those films; it is a cult classic, and rightly so, and I count myself among the members of that particular cult proudly. At first glance, this might just seem like another Frankenheimer film that was added to the list, but this deserves its spot for many reasons, such as the warped and amazing cinematography and a wholly unsettling musical score, and of course, for the fact that it’s just a damn fine film all around.
Arbitrary Rating: 10/10