A story of corruption and morality in this crime drama about the criminal element controlling unions through violence and corruption. On The Waterfront follows Terry Malloy played by Marlon Brando, a promising fighter who threw away his career because of his brother’s involvement with local crime boss Johnny Friendly. Malloy now finds himself without direction working as a longshoremen parts of Friendly’ corrupt union, after the death of a man who would speak out against Friendly where Malloy was involved, the community begins to change their tune.
The film shows the utter helplessness of anyone who stands opposed to the crime. A priest holds a meeting in a church for people to discuss how to combat Friendly’s influence and save their livelihood. Then a brick is thrown the window and all in attendance are beaten with sticks, more people are killed later on, resolve strengthens for some, others becomes more afraid. Malloy sees Friendly as a mentor figure is a way, the latter taking a shine to the young fighter but when Malloy becomes infatuated with the sister of the man he helped kill, things begin to change. Malloy’s life is going nowhere because of Friendly, he’ll work at the waterfront despite having a chance for something greater, his relationship with Edie ignites a moral debate within himself.
Brando’s performance as Malloy as well as Lee J. Cobb as Johnny Friendly and Karl Malden as Father Barry are amazing. Director Elia Kazan develops these characters very well all three of them going through distinctive changes. Father Barry’s commitment to the cause is inspiring, he knows the dangers and despite his fear will not back down. Cobb is terrific as Friendly, he’s arrogant, selfish and ruthless and seems unstoppable at times. Even with the presence of law enforcement in the film, he seems untouchable. Brando is ably to convey the conflict of Malloy very well, he’s torn by fear and his own disappointment. He knows he has nothing left except for Friendly’s generosity to turn against him would be the end of him. When witnessing the first hand the damage his actions as Friendly’s pawn, he realises he must change. This is also the film where Brando gives that killer line of being a contender and damn does he sell that scene so well.
Morally driven and inspiring to any that are oppressed, On The Waterfront shows the reality and bravery of standing up against injustice. The world is filled with criminals abusing people and its only gotten worse but this film has a timeless message of strength to it. Beautifully shot and performed, this film is a must see viewing for any audience.