Why do I love this movie so much? I mean, I own a very few films, and this is one, if only because I watch it on a regular basis. So what about this particular film makes it so great in my mind?
Well, I think at the base of it, Ronin is a really great thriller, and it doesn’t try to be anything but that. It’s really well paced, something I think Frankenheimer has perfected over the years. He knows to start slow but really tense, the ratchet up the pace with escalating action until you reach the apex of the action of the movie in the famous ambush scene. There are other great action scenes, to be sure, but the movie rises and falls around that episode.
The other thing I think is wonderful about this movie is that Frankenheimer resists the urge to fill in the story with exposition or backstory. I’m not saying that it’s a subtle movie, by any stretch of the imagination, but he knows that the strength of the story is in what is happening right here and now. As with all the characters, the viewer shares in the opaque histories of everyone else, and therefore we’re able to dispense with any other thought but what’s going on right in front of us. We don’t have to root for any over-arching message or agenda.
In the end, we are sentenced to a little too much information about Sam’s agenda all the time, but we can forgive the story tellers for this. If you ever have seen the alternate ending with Jean Reno’s terrible voiceover, we were spared a far worse ending.
I think it’s just one of those movies where I can slip into the story so easily and just enjoy it unfolding over and over again.