On The Waterfront (1954) – Movie Review

Opening Thoughts:

I have not seen many movies between the 1930’s to the 1970’s. On the Waterfront is one of those movies that I have in my movie collection but I have not gotten the chance to see. So recently I’ve gotten the chance to see it and boy it was so worth it! Marlon Brando is known for The Godfather films especially, but I’ve also heard he’s also known for this film and plenty of others. Many people usually talk about his role in The Godfather so I think his role in this film is underrated.

The Positives:

The main great thing about this film is the character development Marlon Brando’s character goes through from beginning to end. Terry in the first act of the film witnesses a dockworker named Joey being killed by Friendly’s enforcers but he keeps his mouth shut so he can remain loyal to Friendly. However when Joey’s sister Edie takes matters into her own hands after his death, that is when Terry becomes conflicted. He begins to start a relationship with Edie and he realizes he wants to be honest with her but at the same time he wants to stay obedient to Friendly. He eventually decides to be honest with her but it led to their breakup. Terry realizes he needs to testify of what he knows.

This shows that Terry’s morals and values has changed from beginning to end. This movie has one of the best character developments in cinematic history. And I’ve only seen this movie once. Usually it takes me a couple of viewings to say a statement like that but this movie is definitely an exception.

The performance by Marlon Brando is so phenomenal. Brando makes his character come to life in such a unique way that you can definitely relate to it. The scene where Terry tells his brother Charlie of how he could’ve been a contender and how he could’ve been someone special in his fighting career was mind blowing. The last fight he was in was a fixed fight and he was instructed by Charlie to lose it intentionally, which led his career to a downward spiral. The way Terry contradicts Charlie in that scene and tells him he should’ve looked out for him since he is his brother and also telling him how he ended up as a bum brings up so many emotions. Also the way Brando’s and Steiger’s reaction/expressions were during that scene felt really real because we would feel the exact same way in that situation. It’s also ironic too because Brando’s character says he turned out to be no one special and Marlon Brando in real life is known to be special for some of his iconic roles in some films such as The Godfather, this film, Apocalypse Now, etc.

Rod Steiger’s character developed really well too after that scene because Charlie wanted to do something right for once. Eva Marie Saint’s character was also well developed since she broke up with Terry at first due to his reputation, etc but realizes she has second thoughts and sees he may not be that bad of a person after all. Everyone else was perfect for their roles too.

The movie won 8 academy awards but I wish it won 9 because I think Rod Steiger should’ve won for Best Supporting Actor. But it’s no doubt that Marlon Brando’s performance in this film is the highlight. The plot itself was solid as well.

The Negatives:

I got no flaws or nitpicks!

Final Thoughts:

Overall, On the Waterfront is no doubt a masterpiece and it’s definitely a movie I’ll be seeing plenty of times from now on. I have more Marlon Brando films to see for the first time but seeing The Godfather films and this movie made me love Marlon Brando more as an actor. I’m going to rate this movie five out of five stars.

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