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Cape Fear

Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear (1991) is one of the most suspenseful films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The original black and white 1962 thriller was very well received but personally this adaptation stomps it. I was on edge the whole time, an emotional roller coaster making you love and hate each character within seconds.

The plot involves attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) withholding evidence that puts away violent sex offender Max Cady (Robert De Niro) of rape charges, Max spends 14 years in prison. But after Max’s release, knowing about Sam’s deceit, he stalks the Bowden family with intentions to destroy them. The plot itself is very clever, it has depth and makes you questions whats wrong and whats right.


Robert De Niro brings a raw and compelling performance, the characterisation of Max Cady is superb making him a charming, charismatic character but also a brutal and manipulative monster. I believe his performance should have won the oscar that year, he is so unbelievably talented and believable.

The opening scene of this film takes you to Cady’s prison cell on the day of his release. The music is foreboding and tense, slowly building up to reveal the muscle in his back covered in a large cross accompanied by the scales of justice. This imagery already makes you think this person has been wronged and they’re not happy about it. This opening is so powerful and iconic that it gives me chills every time, please go give it a look!


Scorsese’s filming techniques remind me of Hitchcock a lot, he uses negative and red visual effects very similar to Vertigo. These choices symbolise betrayal, blood and danger making the scenes intentions obvious to an audience and making them wait for the these happenings to come true. He also uses very close up camera angles, which personally I love using myself. I think it gives a very personal mood to a scene and makes characters venerable to you, Scorsese using this manipulates an audience to make them feel sorry for the evil character. Which is so clever and I love watching it because it makes me feel the same way every time, I feel empathy towards Cady and then I hate him again.


One scene in particular that I want to address involves Max Cady and Danielle Bowden (Juliette Lewis). Danielle is the daughter of Cady’s ex-attorney, she’s 15 years old and Cady instantly takes a fancy to her, which in itself is wrong and uncomfortable to watch. The scene involves Danielle going to her class where Cady is pretending to be her new drama teacher, she is completely unaware. She takes a fancy to him herself, Lewis’ acting is so realistic through her giggles and body language you can tell exactly what she’s thinking every moment. He uses his charm and power to approach her and put his arm around her, then he continues to force his thumb into her mouth and then kiss her. The whole scene is filmed and edited perfectly, no sound, no cuts, nothing. It’s raw and it’s disturbingly realistic.

I love this film, it’s the only thriller to play on my mind afterwards.

You’re gonna learn about loss.



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Welcome to Film Probe, a platform where I have dedicated my time and energies to reviewing films, tv and more. I pride myself on offering more than just an opinion, but rather a carefully crafted insight into the film's themes, characters, and overall production.

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