Monday, February 09, 2004

Dark Passage

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 8 January 2004 at the Brattle Theater (Bogie & Bacall weekend)

Of the four Bogie and Bacall pairings, this one is the weakest. The plot is utterly nonsensical, and the two are hardly ever on screen at the same time; indeed, Bogart doesn't even show up on screen until halfway through the movie. Compared to the likes of The Big Sleep or Key Largo, it's not in the same ballpark.

And yet, there are things about it that are worth watching. Location shooting wasn't nearly as common 50+ years ago as it is today, and seeing a film noir played out in real locations, as opposed to obvious sets, is enjoyable. Indeed, though Delmer Daves's adaptation of the David Goodis novel is, quite frankly, crap, his direction makes up for a lot. The opening hour uses a lot of odd angles and first-person perspective to avoid showing Bogart's face before his character has plastic surgery, and while this technique wears out its welcome, it does force Daves to concentrate on where he puts and moves his camera, with the end result being an escape sequence that is fairly tense - the camera swings around to show the character's panic, you only know what he sees, and there always seems to be something dangerous just out of sight.

A real shame about the script, though. As much as the cast gives their all in every performance, nothing anybody does in this movie makes sense, and that's even accepting the number of coincidences. And that's a killer; if the two leads were on screen together more, that might be overcome, but it's not the case.

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