(I felt this trailer more aptly captures the excitement of the movie than the original)
North by Northwest is generally considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest works. The thriller about mistaken identities and deception played out in an almost comedic, light-hearted manner came in between two of his more dramatic works: Vertigo and Psycho.
As the story unfolds (and at a quick pace at that) the narration is restricted to the movie’s protagonist, Roger Thornhill. From his abduction, to his chase of George Kaplan (the man he is mistaken for) and his running from the law and Vandamm we know only as much as he does. However, Hitchcock provides the audience with two instances of unrestricted knowledge. After the killing at the UN and Thornhill’s quick exit (shown in an aerial view; a matte shot) a dissolve puts us in front of an US intelligence building in Washington and another dissolve puts us in a room of people discussing Thornhill’s current predicament and we are told that George Kaplan does not exist. The second instance of omniscience occurs in the train when Eve sends a note to Vandamme and we discover that she is working for him.
Hitchcock provides these scenes of omniscience in an otherwise restricted narrative to build suspense (never being happy with only a ten second surprise when he can have an hour of suspense). As we know more than Thornhill for the rest of the movie we are actively viewing it wondering how and when he will discover the truth.