Now this is a movie. Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" develops such a clean, uncluttered line from beginning to end that we're drawn through it (and into it) effortlessly. The experience is not so much like watching a movie, as like ... well, like spying on your neighbors. Hitchcock traps us right from the first.
As his hero, Jimmy Stewart, idly picks up a camera with a telephoto lens and begins to scan the open windows on the other side of the courtyard, we look too. And because Hitchcock makes us accomplices in Stewart's voyeurism, we're along for the ride. When an enraged man comes bursting through the door to kill Stewart, we can't detach ourselves, because we looked too, and so we share the guilt and in a way we deserve what's coming to him.
They say that most of the great movies begin with a simple premise. "Rear Window" sure does. Jimmy Stewart is a magazine photographer who is stuck at home in a wheelchair, with his leg up in a cast. He starts spying on his neighbors. He begins to notice odd behavior on the part of the couple across the way. They fight. The man seems violent. The woman is not seen again. What happened to her? Was she murdered? How will the man dispose of the body? Is there a person alive who would not be drawn into this plot?
What's interesting is the way Hitchcock spreads the guilt around. Although the man across the way (Raymond Burr) seems to be the "worst" person in this movie, we don't get to know him well and we never identify with him. Instead, we identify with James Stewart. And because he is doing something he's not supposed to do, because he is essentially amoral and takes liberties with other people's privacy, somehow he's guilty, too.