The most iconic of James Dean’s 3 major roles, after East of Eden and before Giant, sees him inspiring numerous Eagles songs as Jim Stark, the new kid in a small town, eager to butt against any system willing to oppose him. He takes a shine to Judy, the girl of gang leader Buzz, and finds troubled social outcast Jon, calling himself Plato, takes more than a shine to Jim. A young Dennis Hopper plays one of the gang members – who I was half expecting to start clicking and dancing to Officer Krupke at some points, but thankfully this was not the case.
The film’s notoriety as a touchstone for a generation of rebellious kids with little to rebel against has raised expectations to levels left wanting, and though Dean’s performance shows potential it cannot be judged against those that might have been. Two scenes stand out – the ‘chicky run’ and tense observatory-set finale, but the film doesn’t even come close to its reputation.
Choose life 6/10