Thursday, November 10, 2011

Double Indemnity

A wounded insurance agent races through a red light in the early hours of the mourning and rushes into his agency where he dictates the events of the last few weeks of his life and how he became embroiled in his current predicament. Beginning with a trip to renew a man's auto policy, the agent becomes enamored with an icy blond and entangled in a murderous insurance scheme, with his keen and dogged boss always on the scent. Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" may be the finest example of film noir to ever grace the big screen, and with a script from a novel by James M. Cain ("The Postman Always Rings Twice", "Mildred Pierce") and contributed to by fellow hard boiled author Raymond Chandler ("The Big Sleep", "Farewell, My Lovely") and given Wilder's crackling writing style, it should be of no surprise. The dialogue that populates the film is terse, witty, and cold and is given greater weight through Fred MacMurray's deadpan delivery as Walter Neff (with two f's as in Philadelphia). He is matched by the beautiful Babraba Stanwyck as the heartless and calculating Phyllis Dietrichson. Edward G. Robinson is wonderful as well as MacMurray's boss, in the role that ushered him from leading man to supporting player. In addition to the great dialogue and crisp black and white direction, one of the great things about the film is how well the crime is spelled out and how plausible every character's involvement and motivation is. "Double Indemnity" is a success on several different levels and another triumph on the incomparable Wilder's list of successes.