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Double Indemnity

60. Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity is yet another Billy Wilder favorite of mine! This film showcases many of my favorite aspects of the noir genre. It tells a realistic, intelligent and cruel story that exposes some of humanity's more evil sides, but it also shows the psychological consequences these immoral explorations can provoke.

Fred MacMurray is an insurance rep who is seduced by Barbara Stanwyck's femme fatale, Phyllis Dietrichson. Together they devise a plan to murder her husband and at the same time collect his life insurance (doubled). Edward G. Robinson's character, a sly insurance inspector and moreover a good friend of MacMurray's character, feels there's something wrong and subtly starts investigating the case. A thrilling, psychological game of cat and mouse unravels between the three main characters and everything slowly develops towards a poignant, climactic ending.

The story alone is already very impressive to follow, but this film also presents it all in a very interesting way. The movie's structure makes everything all the more profound. The film is completely narrated by Fred MacMurray's character (who is clearly wounded) through a tape recorder in the office of Edward G. Robinson's character. It's a very effective way of telling this story. The audience already knows from the start that something cruel is going to happen, but they don't know when and where. They also don't know the final destiny of the main character yet, because he tells the whole story in the middle of the climax, right before his fate is sealed. Also, the voice-over device works extremely well in the noir genre and this is one of the first films that shows us why. The main character is not only showing us their feelings and emotions through his acting, but he's actually observing and explaining everything to us. In a noir film, where characters often make twisty decisions and immoral moves, it's all the more interesting and enriching to hear the motives explained by the characters themselves.

Double Indemnity is an indisputable noir classic by Billy Wilder and an absolute must-see for every cinephile out there!