Monday, November 29, 2010

Dark Passage. A-

Dark Passage is one of the most entertaining film noirs ever made, and also one of the strangest. It pairs Bogart and Bacall for the third of four films they made together, yet they really share very few scenes together. The reason is because Bogart plays a fugitive who undergoes plastic surgery to conceal his identity. So the first half of the movie or so we don't actually see him, but rather we get his point of view. The camera, in innovative fashion, deliberately avoids any sight of Bogart until Bacall unwraps his bandages to see our fugitive transformed. It's a great moment in the movie because we know exactly what Bogart looks like, yet there's still an eerie sense of dread over the possibility that the surgery didn't work. Dark Passage is chiefly an exercise of suspense, staying mostly clear of intimate moments and instead focusing on the brisk story. There's a lot that has to be told, and in just over 100 minutes, the movie fits everything in without feeling overly rushed. I was reminded very much of 1993 classic The Fugitive because both films are about men running from the law while trying to uncover the real victim in their wives' murders. It's that combination of solving while escaping that makes this movie so exciting, and, because it's so well made, addicting. Dark Passage wouldn't be what it is without Bogart and Bacall, who somehow manage sizzling romantic chemistry in spite of their vast age differentials. I generally pick Bogart as my favorite actor of the classic era, and I can say the same for Bacall. Separated they're phenomenal, so you can imagine what a novelty it is to see them in the same frame.

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