The Wages of Fear

Desperate men relying on their paltry wits in a cruel and forsaken place-a bit like John Huston's great The Treasure of the Sierra Madre made five years earlier. But Clouzot's existential thriller accelerates along a perilous mountain road, rather than circling, vulture-like, above the greed of men. Set in an unidentified country, the squalid town of Las Piedras is a haven for tramps scrapping together a day's meager wage. The reigning ragamuffin is the inveterate drifter Mario, played by Yves Montand, the pop crooner married to Simone Signoret. He teams up with Jo (Charles Vanel), a barrel-bodied tough guy, and together they take on the treacherous job of hauling nitroglycerin for an oil company across three hundred miles of gut-churning terrain. Once they depart Las Piedras, along with a second truck, The Wages of Fear never relents, waging its own war of nonstop nerve-wreckage. Every rutted road, every rickety bridge becomes a harrowing trial for these damned haulers. Clouzot performs his own duties with Hitchcockian flair, wearing down his quartet of drivers until they are the barest of beings, downshifting through the gears of humanity. The Wages of Fear is an explosive parable about who's really in the driver's seat.

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