Alfred Hitchcock directing Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. What more needs to be said?
This is three drastically different film worlds colliding together and seeing what sticks. This is Cool Hand Luke and Mary Poppins coming together, while being directed by the man who gave us “Psycho.” Sometimes, the oddity of the casting choices works to the films advantage, especially with Julie Andrews, and other times the vastly different styles of acting makes the characters feel emotionally detached, in particular with Paul Newman.
Michael Armstrong (Newman) is an American rocket scientist who takes on a secret mission that leads him from Stockholm into East Berlin. The world labels Armstrong as a traitor, but he insists that doing this is for the safety of the entire world. Armstrong’s fiancée, Sarah Sherman (Andrews), accompanies him on this journey, but is unaware of Michael’s true intentions.
Like “Family Plot” and “Frenzy,” you can tell right away this a Hitchcock film. An espionage thriller about a seemingly regular man having to play the secret agent, while constantly being hunted down by many forms of government and is wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit, in this case treason. This film has all the hallmarks of Hitchcock movies like “North By Northwest” and “Strangers On A Train,” but lacks the subtle yet dry-sense-of-humor acting of those films.
As great of an actor as Paul Newman is, he was the wrong man for this role. Newman was best at playing the suave rebel, that wanted to make a statement about how messed up the world is while looking cool at the same time. Playing Michael Armstrong is a man who must subvert his emotions and hide everything behind a cloak of confusion, especially when it comes to the German society. Newman ends up being so concentrated on his work that we don’t get any genuine character from him, in particular with his romance with Julie Andrews.
Andrews, however, plays Sarah Sherman as a woman obsessed with learning the truth about her fiancée and will do whatever it takes to be with him. She ends up being dedicated and lovely, giving “Torn Curtain” some much-needed heart in how much she truly cares for her lover.
Overall, “Torn Curtain” is a pretty standard Hitchcock film, with unexpected and thrilling scenes that will leave you wanting more, but is short on a good protagonist. Julie Andrews does a great job with her role, but I cannot say the same for Paul Newman, who is far too rebellious to play a rocket scientist.
Final Grade: B-