This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Big Tim’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"Straight down the line."
Classic noir. That's all you can really say. Dark and crackling with great dialogue and directed by one of the great masters of cinema, this movie is a must-see in every sense of the word.
For a shifty, fast-talking insurance agent, an infatuation with a femme fatale turns into a murder plot to collect a payday and ride into the sunset with his newfound lady love. Little does he know that there is no such thing as the "perfect murder," and before long the walls close in on his once-airtight plan and dark truths come to the forefront.
The movie is successful on so many fronts, namely narrative structure, as the protagonist (the wonderfully quick-tongued and manipulative Walter as played by Fred MacMurray) tells us the story in the form of a confession. Obviously, his plan has gone terribly wrong. We are taken along on a ride as he brings us back to the beginning when he met the object of his affections (the cold, calculated Phyllis played by Barbara Stanwyck) and the plot is conceived, carried out, and then the characters must deal with the aftermath as the bloodhound of an insurance claims analyst (played by the always fabulous Edward G. Robinson) is hot on their trail of revealing their nefarious scheme.
The dialogue pops and sizzles throughout this movie, especially in the interactions between MacMurray and Stanwyck. Whether MacMurray is hitting on her in the beginning or when they are devising the murder plot or when it all comes crashing down at the end, this is one of the best male-female co-leads in movie history. Stanwyck is ice cold in her role and some of that rubs off on MacMurray. You really shouldn't be rooting for these two antiheroes, but when that car doesn't start right away when they're about to make their getaway, you'll gasp and worry for them! I've gotta think Alfred Hitchcock used that same strategy in "Psycho" when Norman Bates covers up the murder by sinking Marion's car in the swamp.
Robinson is also great as MacMurray's looming boss, a whip-smart and experienced claims analyst who scientifically picks apart everything to find a phony claim, and who unknowingly plays a cat-and-mouse game with MacMurray's character until the very end.
You know Billy Wilder for his comedies and romantic comedies, but this is arguably his first GREAT film, and it is a classic film noir that should be seen by any film buff. Just gets better and better with every viewing.