[Film Review] Double Indemnity (1944)

Title: Double Indemnity
Year: 1944
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Director: Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder
Raymond Chandler
James M. Cain
Music: Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography: John F. Seitz
Fred MacMurray
Barbara Stanwyck
Edward G. Robinson
Jean Heather
Tom Powers
Byron Barr
Porter Hall
Richard Gaines
Rating: 8.2/10

Billy Wilder’s earlier vintage work, DOUBLE INDEMNITY is an unapologetically thrilling film-noir, without any fluffy fillers, this morally shocking murder tale has justified itself as a textbook exemplar of how cinema is able to be a heavyweight platform to narrate a story, apart from all those auxiliary foils (both visually and sonically), the marrow here is a neat but impeccable script (by Wilder and Raymond Chandler).

The impending tragedy has been explicitly unravelled since the very beginning, the storyline starts as a flash-back, our protagonist, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), suffering from a bullet wound in his shoulder, has stated that he neither got the money nor the woman after executed a ruthless murder, then the film jumps to the overture to delve into the details of Walter’s fated encounter with Phyllis Dietrichson (a gracefully confident Barbara Stanwyck to portray a standard femme-fatale character), as an insurance rep, Walter is smitten with her and assists her to murder her wealthy husband so as to get the so-called “double indemnity” insurance compensation. The murder scheme certainly is not the most difficult part, the real challenge is after the evil conduct, in one hand, Walter’s super-acute superior Keyes (a bona-fide scene-stealer Edward G. Robinson) who gradually detects the real motive after the presuming accident death; on the other hand, the more devilish past of Phyllis suggests that there is an even bigger conspiracy is under the way.

One could never argue that the script is prodigiously witty and most notably is Keyes’ eloquence in harnessing his professional intuition (“the little man inside”) to find out the loophole behind any ostensibly qualified insurance cases. It’s quite unimaginable that Robinson had been snubbed for a supporting acting nomination while the film has acquired 7, including BEST PICTURE, DIRECTOR and LEADING ACTRESS (without win though); while MacMurray, had been eluded by the Academy throughout his wholesome career, potentially had delivered his best work in depicting an ambiguous figure with all he had; Stanwyck’s role is a tad feeble due to her not-too-copious presence but she is just marvellous to watch with each gesture and expression entangled with her own breed of complexity, but the final convolution of her heartlessness-turns-soft tactic is a self-conscious compromise, woman falls prey of a man’s world is just an illusionary chimera, which has been haunting us until this moment and will thrive on and on.




8 thoughts on “[Film Review] Double Indemnity (1944)

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