The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946), directed by Howard Hawks, written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett & Jules Furthman, based on a novel by Raymond Chandler, starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers

There's enough plot for several movies in the Big Sleep. It starts out as a simple enough of a case for a private eye Philip Marlowe (Bogart) when he gets a blackmailing case for an old general Sternwood (Charles Waldron). His younger daughter Carmen (Vickers) is the subject because of her gambling debts, or so they say.  In any case, he trusts it for Marlowe to take care of the business. But it ain't that simple. Marlowe smells that from a far despite he takes the case and after the older daughter Vivian (Bacall) confronts him about a disappearance of the generals former confidante who's gone missing earlier, he begins to realise the full extent of things.

Yeah, When the story begins to unravel, it gets more and more complex before the end. There's blackmail, drugs, some murders, love dramas and organised crime and Marlowe in the middle of it all, trying to balance out who's done what and how to keep his employers from getting sucked in too deep.

While the story of the Big Sleep might at times feel a bit too complex for its own good, it's also very evident why it also is one noir movie which gets picked on lists about the best noir movies ever made.  It's well directed and written movie, that is even more enhanced by a top notch acting from the cast. More than in anything else, the quality of the script and acting comes out in the snappy banter that is constant between Marlowe and others. Marlowe himself is as cool as a man can be, especially if someone is pointing a gun at him. He doesn't quake on his boot, but tackles the situation head on, trusting his gift of the gap to speak his way out of any problem he encounters. And while he does pick up a gun, or two, during the case, he doesn't use it very often.

At times Marlowe is even a bit foolhardy what comes confronting the people he meets, as he's not afraid of saying the things like he sees them nor is willing to gravel in front of anyone. You could say, that he'd have a lot fewer problems in his life if he'd just be willing to bend a bit, but then again, half of the fun of the story is his character and how Bogart plays him,

What comes to Marlowe how Bogart played him, it's actually interesting that while Bogart played him only once, he most likely is the best-known movie incarnation of the character. At least I do think of Bogart when I think of a quintessential 1940's hardboiled private eye. Marlowe has been played by other actors as well, even the Big Sleep has made again in 1978 with Robert Mitchum in the lead, but none of the others have really managed to stand out as well as Bograt has. But then again, when Bogart actor Marlowe he was a superstar with a tonne of hardboiled noir movies under his belt and with as good of a movie as the Big Sleep is, it's not that big of a wonder in the why that happened.

Not that the Big Sleep is a flawless movie, nothing ever is.  At times the plot feels a bit too overly convoluted and there are new faces popping up with a bit too fast, at times only to be on screen for a minute of two before they drift off. Not having read the original novel, I don't know if these characters are treated the same way in the movie as they are in the book, but it probably would have been better to combine some of them.

All said, the Big Sleep still is a great movie. It is, as you'd expect from a movie of this old, a bit dated at places, like the way it shows violence feels a bit tame in comparison to modern crime movies. If someone is shot, there are no blood nor visible bullet wounds, despite we'd see the shooting on screen. This is obviously just a nitpick and doesn't really detract from the movie itself. It's just a big difference if you come to the Big Sleep from a modern crime movie, where violence can be quite gruesome at times.

If you're interested in noir movies, the Big Sleep might not be the easiest one, to begin with, thanks to the complex plot it has, but it's not a bad one either if you just give it a try.  And if you end up not liking it, there's no shame in that either.