The Big Sleep - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Big Sleep Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 13, 2014
A smart detective story full of the most exquisite dialogue and with an extremely complex plot that prompts us to try to connect the pieces of the intricate puzzle in our heads, even if it actually does not answer all of the questions (the death of a certain character is left unsolved).
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2011
it's supposed to be a classic, and, while I did enjoy this film noir caper, I must's pretty overrated.

Based on a novel by Raymond Chandler, this is about cynical private investigator Philip Marlowe and his involvement in a blackmail case that turns murderous. The film is noted for being really complex and confusing, and that's one of my main issues with it. I'm not a stupid person, but if the three screenwriters who adapted this had to contact Chandler and ask him to tell them what was going on, and even he didn't really know (or so he said), then you've got some problems here.

I've watched, and enjoyed, some very complex and convoluted films before, but here it just didn't stick. I think maybe too it has something to do with how hyped this film was. Yeah, it's a strong mystery, and sure, maybe I did enjoy the fact that it's really more about the procedural aspects of a criminal investigation than the results, but even then it feels unsatisfying. Maybe that has to do with my other major complaint, which is censorship.

I know that you can still have a great work of art without having to details all the graphic aspects, but when the more sordid stuff is integral to the film, then maybe yeah, they need to be shown. Obviously that wasn't gonna happen in the 40s, but maybe they could have tried to really be groundbreaking, even if it meant courting more controversy than they would have wanted to deal with. Look at stuff like A Clockwork Orange as a prime example.

Sorry for ranting, I just couldn't help it. Anyways, yeah, this is a fun, though challenging mystery thriller. I think what makes it work in the end are the performances, and the chemistry the cast have with one another, especially where Bogart and Bacall are concerned. Those tow are terrific, and its said that Bogart's turn are Marlowe is the definitive one. Works for me. Martha Vickers is also really good, and, even though she makes just a brief appearance, I loved Dorothy Malone as the book seller that Marlowe has a moment with while hiding out in her shop. It's a great scene (and one where I'm okay with the subtlety).

Despite how much of a complicated mess this is, the film does have some great lines, and a dry and sardonic sense of humor. It's really stylish, and from a formal perspective, is very impressive. The look is great, it's well shot, and the score by Max Steiner is a real treat.

It has its flaws, and I'm prepared to have my cinema buff card revoked for saying anything bad about this film, but I stand by my judgment. I did like it, and do recommend it, but think that it's not as grand as I was lead to believe.
Super Reviewer
May 12, 2013
Phillip Marlowe gets embroiled in a family's drama, which quickly turns murderous.
Everything about this film is perfect. The mystery is compelling and engaging because the characters are always ahead of the audience, which is refreshing in this age when everything but flashing arrows tell modern audiences when the detective encounters a clue. The writing is sharp and funny with lines so good and so right for Bogie that it's impossible to imagine anyone else saying them. For example:

Eddie Mars: Is that any of your business?
Philip Marlowe: I could make it my business.
Eddie Mars: I could make your business mine.
Philip Marlowe: Oh, you wouldn't like it. The pay's too small.

And there's Bogie and Bacall -- film legends with legendary chemistry -- who sizzle the screen. It's only their talent that makes a rather tepid love story work.
I don't see anything profound or socially necessary about The Big Sleep, but films like this can be intellectually engaging and fun.
Overall, The Big Sleep is a foundational film and a great time at the movies.
Super Reviewer
½ July 12, 2011
Just watch Humphrey Bogart. Listen and enjoy. New actors...please learn something...anything.
Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2011
Bogart gives a pitch perfect performance as Philp Marlowe in the second Hawks/Bogart/Bacall classic. This noir gem is a true treat to watch.
Super Reviewer
½ March 10, 2011
In Howard Hawks' 1946 film noir The Big Sleep, Humphrey Bogart is at the top of his game. In fact, while I love Ford, Hayden, Andrews, and other famous noir protagonists, Bogart's take on hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe is simply fantastic. His demeanor is stern but seemingly carefree and his humor is imprudent and laced with sinister undertones. Whether you credit that to Faulkner's screenplay, Hawks' direction, or Bogart's prowess, the performance is outstanding.
For the film itself, it is very detailed. While this is my first Hawks film, I am amazed at the attention he gives to the most simplistic actions. For example, when Marlowe is interrogating a suspect, their is almost more to read out of their body language than their actual words. The camera is angled perfectly to capture the interviewees anxious movements as he attempts to avoid any type of eye contact with Marlowe. A simple interview becomes a mental chess game as Marlowe counters these movements.
This is simply one example of many beautifully crafted scenes in this sprawling crime story that is chalk full of shadows, shady people, and copious amounts of raw violence taking place in a dimly lit city.
While most noirs are filled with a large cast of double crossers, this cast of characters seems exceptionally grand and can sometimes be tedious to keep track of. The fact that there are so many characters means that many characters don't have enough screen time for the audience to get adequately acquainted with them. While this doesn't detract too much from the greatness of this film, it sometimes makes it difficult to become fully immersed in the picture. In the end, this is a great film with solid directing and astonishing performances. With a tighter script, this film could have been worthy of my coveted 5 stars.
Super Reviewer
June 19, 2011
I really enjoy "The Big Sleep" for it's stylish demeanor, it's mega-wat star power and it's entertaining and twisty plot. While the film is not as refined thematically as "The Maltese Falcon," "The Big Sleep" is certainly more cinematic. Howard Hawks knows how to craft an energetic picture and "The Big Sleep" is certainly that. Add in the crackerjack chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and the nasty and witty sensibilities of Raymond Chandler and you are in for quite a treat.
Super Reviewer
½ August 11, 2007
zowie! more quotable lines than mcdonalds has fries. palpable sizzle between the leads that's palpable! and ... just for the helluvit: bogie does a number as a nerd that's a hoot! enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
Super Reviewer
October 27, 2006
Jesus Christ, where to begin? Humphrey Bogart's (who's amazing on his own here) chemistry with the sizzling Lauren Bacall is the obvious centerpiece of the movie, but Howard Hawks' direction was nothing to scoff at either. The supporting cast and the dialogue/banter definitely helped out under the hood as well. The Big Sleep isn't impossible to follow but it definitely keeps the viewer on their toes and doesn't let up too often. For as better as the movie gets with each viewing and as great as it is, the scene with Bogart and Dorothy Malone is amazing and deserving of its own movie. Big name film noir at its best...
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2011
The story involves Philip Marlowe (Bogart), being hired by a wealthy man, General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), to investigate the supposed gambling debts of a wild daughter, Carmen, played by Martha Vickers. In the course of the film, Marlowe becomes involved with pornographers, grifters, murder, illegal gambling, and the familys OTHER daughter, Vivian, played with great style, by Lauren Bacall.
Super Reviewer
½ January 25, 2009
The film didn't impress me as a film-noir as much as it impressed me on the funny note. Humphrey Bogart plays the role of carefree detective, with strong presence of mind, quite well. He gets some of the great lines in the movie and his timing is perfect. Though the movie failed to fulfill my high expectations, it surely wasn't a total disaster either. The movie is worth a watch only for Humphrey Bogart's unique and incredible performance.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
A brilliant, if sometimes complicated, story of private eye Phillip Marlowe played by Bogart. Bacall co-stars. This is a classic 40s film noir, and I highly recommend it.
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2010
I'm going to go ahead and say that this is the greatest Film Noir ever made, at least in my eyes. It has Humphrey Bogart at the top of his game, I'm not even one of his die-hard fans but this makes him a god among men. Lauren Bacall also portrays a female lead like no other, being the best non-stereotypical femme fatale. This has all of the upsides to the genre without any of its flaws. There's great dialogue, a beautifully written story and a dark tone. It doesn't have cheesy narration, cartoonish characters, a confusing or too simplistic plot and it's not hellbent on morals. Howard Hawks' direction only enhances all of this; great sets, framing and focus, and pace. You are never bored, never made out to be a simpleton and always blown away. It honestly deserves more praise than it receives, very few times have I wanted to go up and kiss a movie screen for being so amazing.
Super Reviewer
July 1, 2010
Not my favorite noir, but a classic to be sure. I got a little mixed up when it came to all the turns and twists, but if I watched it again, I think it would become clearer. Still, I do love some 40s movies with some amazing acting!
Super Reviewer
March 16, 2010
Brilliant stuff. Full review later.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
December 11, 2009
Challenging and complex (with a screenplay co-written by William Faulkner), the interwoven storyline of director Howard Hawks' "The Big Sleep" is classic crime noir at it's most epic. Humphrey Bogart stars as Philip Marlowe, a shamus who winds up in the thick of a murder cover-up and blackmailing scheme. I don't think anyone does a private eye quite like Bogie; he never overplays the tough guy aspect of his character (unlike alot of other film detectives of that era), and he's confident without being indestructible. When Marlowe gets into trouble, there's a sense that he might be getting in over his head. Things seem simple enough at first: a wealthy but dying retired general hires him to deal with some blackmailers who have some dirt on one of his wild daughters (the general is a strange character himself, Marlowe finds him sitting in a hothouse wrapped in layers of clothes in the stifling heat). The elder daughter, who has problems of her own, points him towards an "exotic books" dealer (it's suggested the store is a front for an illegal pornography ring), whom he tails home. Marlowe finds the daughter's hands are more than just a little dirty when he finds her drugged up and alone with the book dealer's dead body on the floor. The story only gets more complicated from here, and I won't go into any more detail, suffice it to say there's little screen time devoted to exposition. All the women in the film, from Lauren Bacall and Martha Vickers to Sonia Darrin, are beautiful and sexual (for a film made in the 40s, there's plenty of innuendo). Also for a film made in the 40s, there's alot of intelligence behind the characters. Motives aren't always stated implicitly, things more often than not are implied or left soley to the viewers own interpretation. The Big Sleep easily ranks with the other Bogart classics, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon as one of the top films of all time and one of the best of its genre.
Super Reviewer
November 5, 2006
Private eye Philip Marlowe is hired to investigate the blackmail of a young heiress but when the corpses start to pile up, he realises that the case has more than meets the eye. I love Film Noir, and Bogart for me is the best of its leading men. Bogart and Bacall have one of the greatest screen partnerships and Chandler was one of the best exponents of the art of the detective story. The plot has more twists and turns than a sidewinder that's swallowed a corkscrew, it involves a femme fatale who could melt a polar ice cap and dialogue that's more hard boiled than beelzebub's breakfast egg. It just doesn't get any better than this. The greatest Noir ever made.
Super Reviewer
April 23, 2009
Bogart-Bacall-Malone how could any movie with these 3 big names in it be anything less then a 5 Star Movie. Bogart played Philip Marlowe a detective who works for a rich old man trying to get a handle on his daughters, every women in this movie tries and get ole Bogart with the I want to make it with you eyes, they all acted dam sexy, and for 1946, I would have love to be in his shoes during the filming of this one. Picture Quality was at its best, and its my understanding that this movie had parts taken out in 1946 with more clips added, what you got was a 5 Star Movie for sure with those additions. I am glad I follow the advice from friends who said I should see this, Oh its in my collection thank you.
Super Reviewer
April 7, 2009
I like this movie about a thousand times more than To Have and Have Not. The love story is always simmering beneath the surface, and in fact whenever Bogie and Bacall have the room together all other murder/scandal/conspiracy conflicts are peripheral to their amazing, sparring, sexual chemistry. It reminds me of Gilda in that way. Bogart always seems to prove that it doesn't take muscle or height to be COOL, just an unshakable self-confidence and nerves of steel. Be daring to do anything and mysteries will unravel at your feet, and even though I never completely understood the story, I don't mind, somehow.
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2007
Once again, at the orders of the great Howard Hawks, Bogie and Bacall throw off sparks whenever they share a scene in this brilliant adaptation of Raymond Chandler's classic novel.
A complex plot, very hard to unravel, even for the shrewd Philip Marlowe, who seems to find corpses anywhere he looks.
The story grabs you and never decays, contrary, it grows in tension with each minute, and almost every attitude seen by the players, and line of dialogue spoken has incommensurable vigor.
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