The Big Heat ★★★★½

Another noir classic that, like Double Indemnity, was well ahead of its time and blew me away. Tearing through it's 89 minutes with ferocious twists and turns, "The Big Heat" is an incredible experience 66 years after it debuted.

*Minor spoilers ahead*

Starting with a mystery surrounding a police commissioner's suicide, the movie features layered complexities that are comparable (or perhaps even deeper?) than most suspense flicks today. Glenn Ford plays the policeman assigned to investigate, and while he plays things largely straight there are several interesting facets to his character.

The first is his relationship with his wife: healthy, playful, and without the saccharine syrup that seems to permeate many films of the era. They are an enjoyable, believable couple, and that makes subsequent events have a gut-punch impact as things unfold.

The second facet is Ford's doggedness in the investigation. We get an understanding, although much is left unsaid, that Ford has slowly been growing bitter with corruption in his precinct, and we see his disillusionment spiral as he continues to push boundaries to a dangerous extent to get to the truth. Police pressure to curtail his investigation is done convincingly and not over-the top, while Ford's escalation mirrors that of the brutality of the criminals he is investigating.

And that brutality is one thing that surprised me about the movie; while of course there isn't the shock-gore you may get in thrillers today, actions and fates of many of the characters is much more brutal than most films of the era. And it's perhaps because the movie still has the wrappings of the 'softer' period of Hollywood, that the brutality delivers the impact that it does.

Packed with memorable scenes, satisfying character arcs, and an undercurrent of anger, The Big Heat is one of the best noirs I've seen and is highly recommended to all fans of thrillers.