Saturday, November 27, 2010

Double Indemnity

Directed by Billy Wilder
1944. Not Rated, 108 minutes.
Fred MacMurray
Barbara Stanwyck
Edward G. Robinson
Jean Heather

An insurance agent (MacMurray) falls in love with the wife of a client (Stanwyck). The two then hatch a plan to kill her husband so they can collect the insurance money and be together. This is Film Noir 101. All of the elements of the genre: the narration, dame that gets ultra-cool guy in hot water, murder and slick slang are not only present but have seldom, if ever, been done better. The dialogue is insanely sharp, filled with sexual innuendo, humor and thoughtfulness at appropriate times. The story keeps you on your toes, introducing elements that subtly change your idea of what you think will happen up until right before the climax. At that point, our hero tells you what's going to happen, or at least what he plans on, and instead of it being a let down it intrigues us even more because we've seen how his plans have worked out so far. MacMurray and Stanwyck are both marvelous in the lead roles and have great chemistry with one another. Robinson, not getting top billing for the first time in a career which was starting to wane by this point, conveys a fierce determination the couple in question must fear. He does so with one of his more subdued, but no less excellent performances. Any fans of film noir, or film buffs in general, must see this movie. This is the movie most recent efforts of the genre take their cues from, even something so over the top as Sin City or as experimental as the underappreciated Brick.

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