Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity ★★★★★

Double Indemnity is something that I see myself revisiting many times both in the near future, and for the ages to come. This is not only because I have an upcoming midterm which Double Indemnity is a prime focus, but the film’s level of entertainment easily lends itself to repeat viewings. I don’t think I will ever not be completely swept away by the way this immersive puzzle of a movie gets pieced together. Giving away a part of the ending right at the start of the film is a classic film noir tactic, but i can’t see any other film possibly executing this better than Double Indemnity. By utilizing this, Wilder effectively keeps you guessing throughout the entire movie, more so than if a more traditional storytelling structure was being used. Wilder turns structural filmmaking on its head, and inspires an entire selection of genre films to come in the process. 

Everyone knows that Billy Wilder is considered one of, if not the best (he is for me anyway), American screenwriters of all time, but can we talk about how this screenplay is about as perfect as it gets? Like, there is no wiggle room at all in this story. You change one thing, and plot holes are created making the story less compelling. I’ve always been amazed at how Wilder can make such a simplistic type of story, and that becomes the most exciting thing in the world just by utilizing effective dialogue and shot framing. That statement mostly applies to The Apartment, in which the plot of the film sounds a lot less exciting than this, yet it’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever watched. In all of Wilder’s films really, it’s easy to see how well thought out both the filmmaking and the writing are, and that should make everyone appreciate this movie even more. The way Wilder makes this script so compact, without a single scene, line, or shot out of place will continue to baffle me for years. 

Another thing is, this film is able to play with your emotions so effectively. To say that this is a manipulative film would be an understatement. With every beat of the story, I thought exactly what the movie wanted me to think, and I don’t think there’s any way out of this manipulation. Double Indemnity will make you laugh when it needs to, just to set up for a super tense moment to heighten the viewer’s level of suspense. Even though I’ve seen this film before, and not too long ago, I still fell into the trap of sympathizing with Phyllis for the first half of the movie. Wilder really pushes the abused by her husband, damsel in distress narrative onto Phyllis, which was something I didn’t remember from my first watch. This caused me to rethink everything I already knew about Phyllis, and made it all the more shocking when the big reveal finally comes full circle. We all know the noir tropes, which would tell you not to trust Phyllis, but Wilder’s brainwashing makes you throw out all logic, both in Phyllis’ case, and in thinking that Walter’s plan could possibly work. This is considered the quintessential film noir for a reason. It’s meta structure and the way it plays with the viewer is at least 20 years ahead of its time. A near perfect movie, and one of my favorites. 

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