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Double Indemnity

Director: Billy Wilder

Double Indemnity is a skillfully written, engaging film-noir. The film follows insurance salesman Walter Neff who falls for a clients wife when meeting her for the first time. They soon develop a scheme to write an accidental death policy on the husband and stage his murder as an accident. All appears to be going smoothly until the claims manager, Barton Keyes, grows suspicious.

Keyes is played by Edward G. Robinson who in my estimation takes this film from another ho-hum noir to a completely engrossing film. Keyes and Neff's scenes together are by far the best thing in Double Indemnity, leaps and bounds ahead of Neff's scenes with Stanwyck's femme fatale. MacMurray is also doing good work as Neff. He particularly excels in the scenes where he is feeling the pressure of his scheme unraveling. The weak link in my opinion is Stanwyck. She feels like someone who is sleep walking through their role, never allowing us to feel the emotion of her character.

Double Indemnity has made me excited to see more of Wilder's work. It is a very straight forward story elevated by Wilder's touches. His dialogue is brilliant. The twists are smart but well thought out. Allowing us to enjoy the story arc as it fleshes out rather than simply trying to fool us as so many thrillers do. The visual touches in the film bring a coolness as well. I was particularly fond of the way Neff lights his matches with his fingertips. Not only was this a cool touch, but Wilder uses it to convey character's emotions visually rather than verbally on a couple of occasions. Double Indemnity is a true classic.