Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity follows insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) as he meets a married woman (Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson) and is subsequently talked into murdering her husband, with the narrative, which unfolds almost entirely in flashback, detailing the degree to which the scheme eventually (and predictably) begins to fall apart. Filmmaker Billy Wilder has infused Double Indemnity with an agreeably hard-boiled vibe that’s reflected in everything from the performances to the visuals to the dialogue, with the latter ultimately standing as one of the picture’s more overtly (and consistently) engaging elements – as scripters Wilder and Raymond Chandler (!) have packed the proceedings with a whole host of irresistible one-liners and snappy exchanges (eg after listening to his boss ramble on for a while, Neff says, “Okay, turn the record over and let’s hear the other side.”) It’s just as clear, however, that the abundance of chatter paves the way for a midsection that’s rather light on momentum, although MacMurray and Stanwyck’s superb work, coupled with an ongoing emphasis on solid plot twists, ensures that Double Indemnity remains watchable right through to its unexpectedly grim finale.

*** out of ****

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