Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Maltese Falcon Review

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

One of the classic film-noirs of its era and one of the greatest films of its genre, I think it is safe to say that The Maltese Falcon is one of my new favourite movies of all time. I came across this film at the library (alongside Chinatown, which I might watch tomorrow) and I figured I might as well rent it as it has been spoken of so highly and I can see why it is considered a classic because it is great. It has a great story, great writing, a great supporting cast, and of course, an iconic performance from Humphrey Bogart (this being my first movie with Bogart).


The Maltese Falcon is about Sam Spade (Bogart) a private detective who is approached by a woman who calls herself Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) who claims her sister has run off with a dangerous man and he won't give her back. He gets his partner, Miles Archer (Jermone Cowan) to tail this guy to see how dangerous he is and Miles ends up getting shot, as well as the guy he is tailing. Spade is initially blamed for these murders, but he later finds out that the woman was lying. Her real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy and she met the man who she claimed to Spade took her sister (although no such sister existed) in the Orient and they became partners. She says that he probably killed Archer, but she has no idea what killed him.

The majority of the film is spent tracking Spade's investigation into the murders of Archer and Thursby (the second victim) as well as an investigation into the whereabouts of a jewel-encrusted bird sculpture enameled black to protect it. That bird is the titular maltese falcon and it is apparently worth a lot of money, so the people in the movie would definitely kill for it. Spade interacts with various people looking for the Falcon, including Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) and O'Shaughnessy on a number of occasions.

I won't give away much more about the story, because you should really watch the movie and see it for yourself. That is kind of a shitty summary, because the plot is very intricate and kind of hard to describe. The plot and style of this movie has been used in countless parodies and other movies afterwards, and the parodies I have seen are generally pretty good. This film set the standard for future film-noirs, which is a genre I would like to explore more (hopefully starting with Chinatown tomorrow). The script is incredibly well-written and filled with awesome film-noir lingo. The character of Sam Spade is one of my favourite characters in any movie and his character is incredibly funny in a sort of deadpan way, and he is the traditional film-noir leading man.

The film is a drama, but it is occasionally quite funny, mostly due to Spade being quite deadpan when he wants to be. Humphrey Bogart plays the role to perfection. I can't say that it's his best role, because I haven't seen any other Bogart movies, but I can't deny that he was fantastic. He gives one of my favourite performances in any movie and it was worthy of awards attention. Mary Astor was pretty good as the mysterious untrustable (or is she?) femme fatale, and there is an air of mystery about her character for the entire film, as we are kept guessing from the beginning all the way to the revelation at the end. Lee Patrick plays Spade's assistant and she does a very good job as well.

The rest of the supporting cast, like Jerome Cowan as Miles, Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo, and Sydney Greenstreet as "The Fat Man", the mastermind that leads to the big reveal at the end. I loved the characters in this movie and they have set up the archetypes for future film noir characters. Almost every film noir, in fact pretty much every film noir, made after this film owes something to this film (just like any film with a twist ending owing to Psycho). Bogart is the hardened P.I., Mary Astor is the Femme Fatale, Sydney Greenstreet is the mastermind, and Jerome Cowan is the hardened P.I.'s partner. Needless to say, the cast of this film is fantastic and the performances were just amazing all around.

When I put in the DVD, my dad said he hoped it wouldn't be colourised, because he says it is much better in black and white. I wholeheartedly agree with him on this one, because the black and white cinematography in this film is some of the best I have ever seen (next to Psycho). The art direction is superb and the maltese falcon itself is beautiful, even in black and white. This is probably one of my weaker reviews because I cannot honestly come up with words to describe the brilliance of this film. All I can say is that I give this my strongest recommendation possible, and it is the very definition of a must-see. One of the most influential films of all time, The Maltese Falcon is simply a perfect movie. There is absolutely nothing wrong with, and I will always stand by that. It has fine performances, great writing, an intricate story, and memorable characters. So in short, just see it. Nothing more to say than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment