On The Waterfront Analysis

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Elia Kazan’s 1954 film On the Waterfront is a crime drama starring legendary actor Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, a former prize-fighting boxer turned dock worker employed by Johnny Friendly (portrayed by Lee J. Cobb), the corrupt leader of the local dock workers union. After witnessing the murder of a fellow co-worker and friend, Joey Doyle, Terry is faced with the difficult decision of speaking against Friendly, a long-time family friend and the boss of his older brother Charley, in court in relation to the mob-esque activities of the dockers union, or keeping his mouth shut in an effort to preserve the relationship, and also his own safety.
Edie Doyle (portrayed by Eva Saint Marie), the sister of the deceased Joey Doyle, and the local Catholic priest Father Barry (a role performed by actor Karl Malden) make it their mission, along with the Waterfront Crime Commission, to encourage those to speak the truth against Friendly. Eventually, the Commission, Father Barry, and Edie zero in on Terry given that he was the only witness to the murder, and collectively act as the moral compass that tries to sway Terry into doing what is considered to be the just thing to do, even if that means going against family.
The film’s purpose is largely centered around the principle of “doing the right thing” and
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Nearly any time Terry feels overwhelmed, he continuously goes to the rooftops. The camera does a good job of using longer shots to show the city looking very small in the background, and Terry being alone in the foreground much larger and in primary focus. He obviously feels a tremendous amount of pressure given the conflict he is in throughout the film, and the usage of the rooftops was key. In a way, it also seemed evident that Terry saw himself in the city to be the same as the birds trapped in the cage. He had his own escape in the form of the rooftops, but the pigeons had nowhere to go
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