Rare is it that a heist film could yield success through failure. No, I am not talking about the film itself, as The Killing is a near-perfect suspense noir that in many ways transcends its genre, but rather that this perfectly plotted undertaking not only goes awry but still satisfies its viewers. Too often audiences are spoon-fed the suspense, wherein we witness the anti-hero tackle the battle through luck and cleverness, only to get away with it in the end. This, we’ve been trained to believe, is the only way to indulge an audience. Well, Kubrick killed all that with this film (no pun). Indeed, there is no grand sigh at the film’s end.
As his third full-length feature, Stanley Kubrick’s first two films contained varying degrees of quality that, despite their convention, were needed for him to achieve the tautness herein. Finishing at 84 minutes, with the use of perfunctory voiceover, the tone is unemotional, detached. (Rendered by radio announcer Art Gilmore, his voice is 180 from the later 1990s trailers that begin with, ‘In a world…’) Throughout, every move is plotted and carefully crafted. Roger Ebert noted this in his review and correlated the film’s intricacy with that of Kubrick’s chess ability. “The game of chess involves holding in your mind several alternate possibilities. The shifting of one piece can result in a radically different game,” Ebert says. […]