Nicholas Ray's study of the epidemic of juvenile delinquency that terrified post-war parents in the '50s is still compelling today even if the delinquency depicted -- leather jackets, switchblades, drag racing -- seems positively quaint by today's shoot-up-the-school-with-an-Uzi standards. Dean takes the role of Jim Trask and runs with it, chewing up the scenery when the script demands it and then throttling back into profound stillness in his moodier moments.
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Regardless, James Dean (in one of only three roles on film) makes quite an impression, and Taylor reminds us why we ever liked her to begin with. The cinematography is equally Giant as well -- showing off the dusty nothing of central Texas, long low plains with brush and low hills in the distant background. George Stevens (Shane) has always had a knack for landscapes, and he's at the top of his game here. On the new DVD (two restored discs, one of which is double-sided), Stevens' son asks us to reconsider the film and enjoy it one again, 45 years after the making. In a commentary track with critic Stephen Farmber and writer Ivan Moffat, he reflects on his departed father and the trio reflect on Giant's legacy. That second disc has all the usual retrospectives and testimonials we've come to expect.
Continue reading: Giant Review