Tom Levy, who is nicknamed Babe by his older brother Henry Levy, an oil executive who in turn is nicknamed Doc by Tom, is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Columbia University. He is also training to run a marathon. Tom is paying homage to his deceased father, H.B. Levy, in pursuing the same studies as him, his father who committed suicide while being under investigation solely for being a Jew. Tom's work doesn't sit well with Doc who wants Tom to move on with his life. While at Columbia, Tom meets and begins to date Elsa Opel, a foreign exchange student also in History. While out for a walk in Central Park late one day, Tom and Elsa are mugged, the unusual aspect of it being that their attackers were men in suits. Tom will learn that the mugging was not a random attack after someone close to Tom is found murdered, the deceased who was not who he purported to be. From here, Tom is thrown into an international plot concerning a WWII Nazi named Christian Szell in hiding, and a large cache... Written by
The high ratings for Marathon Man are no doubt focused on the substantial talent assembled to pull it off, and they succeed as long as one dispenses with every expectation of logic or common sense. Schlesinger builds substantial suspense, and there are plenty of satisfying scenes, but the plotting and story points are ridiculous beyond measure. This might not be a problem if it were any other type of picture, but the progressive unfolding of an initial puzzle to a somewhat sensible (or at least rational) set of revelations is one of the hallmarks of the government intelligence thriller. The story here, however, is so thin that virtually nothing happens for the entire first half of the picture, and the second half is really nothing more than one long chase sequence. The biggest problem is that the central objective of the action is precipitated by a murder that, if contemplated for more than about twenty seconds, reveals itself to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. And the illogical story points are not just structural. There are numerous details throughout that are obviously (and, to my mind, condescendingly) designed as mere conveniences for the the action, regardless of how inane or inexplicable they may be. The veneer of star power and sophisticated production values did not--for this viewer, at any rate--successfully obfuscate the movie's considerable flaws.
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