The Big Sleep Reviews

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½ April 21, 2015
Like most, I had no idea what the hell was going on with the convoluted plot of the film. And, as far as atmosphere goes, this film is not as noirish as some. But damn...the teaming of Bogie and Bacall - their sizzling chemistry - and their dialogue...damn. Hard-boiled, tough guy, tough chick, private dick heaven. Timeless stuff.
August 18, 2011
Only a tick after the Warner Brothers logo and theme song fill the room do the silhouettes of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall appear, trading cigarettes, exuding the allure only found behind the angular sunglasses of a dragon lady or a glamorized goon. Their names then appear with the rush of a bold statement; in 1946, they were the titles of stars, of top-drawer actors. In 2015, they're godly, legendary, untouchable. As the shadowed bodies, the gigantic names, and the dangling cigarettes of the leads appear before the title of the movie itself, a tone is already established. "The Big Sleep" will be a film in which Bogie and Bacall prefer slippery chats over liquor and smoke to breathy romance; it will be a film in which style, wit, and danger come first and intelligibility follows second.
"The Big Sleep" is perhaps the film noir, the quintessential Bogart and Bacall pairing, the movie that sidestepped the sunniness of all those Technicolor, 1940s morale boosters in trade of something almost unhinged in its cool. It was the film that initially showed me just how beguiling actors could be, how captivating pure cinema could be, how bewitching dialogue could be. I've seen "The Big Sleep" twenty times or so (who's counting?), but each viewing brings some new discovery unnoticed by the previous undertaking. My last was an attempt to introduce my sister to its enticing world. This time around, some months later, I find myself reenchated by the chemistry between Bogart and Bacall, more appreciative of the silky screenplay. Each viewing changes - some are out of a nostalgic need, some are out of a desire to consume flawless filmmaking - but one thing always remains the same: no film has ever matched "The Big Sleep"'s unflagging ability to excite.
This is an amazing accomplishment for a film that doesn't make any sense - famously, the author of the novel, the incomparable Raymond Chandler, had a hard time deciding if a major character had been killed or had committed suicide - but one doesn't worry about plot twists or big payoffs here. We become so wrapped up in the stunning rapport between the leads (to be married after completion) and the quick (but razor sharp) dialogue that it's easy to forget that films normally, you know, make sense. It's not a case of style over substance but rather style with substance that gives us many memorable moments that just so happen to lead to nowhere. But those moments.
It's the story of a private detective, Phillip Marlowe (Bogart), and a case given to him by the poisonously wealthy General Sternwood (Charles Waldron). It seems that one of Sternwood's wild daughters, Carmen (Martha Vickers), has put herself in the middle of a blackmailing scheme, and the girl, thumb-sucking and Lolita-esque, is too naïve to get herself out of the racket. Marlowe, sardonic and clever, is the perfect man for the job - but the case, as it turns out, is much more complicated than it appears to be. It also, unfortunately, involves a murdered pornographer (Theodore von Eltz), a secretive gambling-house proprietor (John Ridgely), Sternwood's other daughter, Vivian (Bacall), who Marlowe is attracted to, and more shady figures.
As Marlowe wanders around in this muddled labyrinth of captivation, it's difficult to keep up with his thoughtful antics; but it isn't hard to find ourselves smitten with the hard-boiled world Howard Hawks and his congregation of screenwriters (including William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman) concoct for us. Enhanced by Max Steiner's fierce score, interludes don't slow things down but rather keep the swiftness of everything intact; scenes, in the meantime, are brimming with such fantastic exchanges that it's difficult not to laugh along with the virtuosic lines the actors challenge each other with.
And if the actors aren't part of the atmosphere, then they're sticking out of it, making it. Whereas Bacall stole scenes from Bogart in 1944's "To Have and Have Not", her career defining debut, in "The Big Sleep" they are equal, equally sensational. Bogart played several interesting men in his long career, but Phillip Marlowe is one of his most intriguing parts, surely among his finest performances. He can spit out lines at a machine gun pace, all the while cherishing Marlowe's dexterity, having fun with it. And though only Bacall's second movie (filmed before 1945's "Confidential Agent", which nearly destroyed her blossoming career), she is a presence in the same way Dietrich or Garbo were in their early days: positively magnetic and unlike anything else found on theater screens of the time. Together, Bogart and Bacall almost set the camera on fire, and not just during love scenes; their real-life romance makes every scene throb with intrigue, and it still shows today. Supporting performances, particularly from the underrated Martha Vickers and Sonia Darrin, make huge statements, no matter how small the part.
Almost 70 years later, "The Big Sleep" remains vital. It's a landmark in the personal lives of its stars, a landmark in cinema, and a landmark work for a director so versatile that "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "Red River" are completely separate yet somehow fronted by the same man. I'll probably watch it twenty more times, but until then, "The Big Sleep" is one of the best films ever made.
February 24, 2015
Yes, it's confusing, but Bogart and Bacall plus a sleazy post-war Los Angeles atmosphere make this a classic.
January 29, 2015
The noir setting and the brilliant screenplay aid Bogart and Baccall with their brilliant performances is in this under appreciated classic. Full review later.
½ January 21, 2015
Me gustó más To Have and have not y El Halcón Maltés.
February 9, 2014
This continues the incredible run of films Bogie made with now-wife Lauren Bacall. Crackling script ran to perfection by Howard Hawks. Essential, especially for fans of detective thrillers or simply well-made movies.
October 27, 2009
This film threw me round a couple of times but considering I was only half watching it I'm not sure 'indecipherable' is the right term to describe it.

Having now seen it, however, I can understand why it's considered such a success.
½ October 4, 2014
My only complain: very intricate plot. Sometimes hard, but not less enjoyable, to follow. Note: second movie in a week with some reference to Mr. Proust. Perhaps it's a signal!
½ December 4, 2009
Me gustó más To Have and have not y El Halcón Maltés.
½ September 4, 2014
Hard to believe I haven't got round to watching this any sooner. It is indeed a great pic, but I was definitely uncomfortable with the moral ambiguity of covering up all Carmen's criminal behavior. Apparently Marlowe is fine with the idea of framing someone else for a murder she committed as well as covering up her involvement in opium and pornography, lamely concluding that they can send her somewhere to get help. Because, of course, she has a rich and indulgent dad. Today, we'd be reading about her on the covers of the tabloids while standing in line at the grocery store.
½ August 15, 2014
I watched this movie after I heard the news of Lauren Bacall's death. The dialogues are really well written. I like how the main characters tease each other each time they meet. You can sense the chemistry between those two, but I guess it's normal since they were married. It's a great movie.
August 13, 2014
When Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner and Howard Hawks come together, you can raise your prospect to the maximum, and The Big Sleep delivers.
½ August 13, 2014
If To Have and Have Not was Howard Hawks attempting to emulate Casablanca, The Big Sleep is his take on the Maltese Falcon. And, like his previous effort with Bogart and Bacall, it doesn't quite reach the heights of its inspiration, it's still an enthralling picture in its own right, due largely to the intense chemistry between its two leads. The plot, if scrutinized, is hard to follow and terribly complex - many of the murders in the film remain unsolved (or at least unexplained to the audience) by the time it's over. But Hawks paces the movie so quickly, with new twists, red herrings, and murder at every turn, that it hardly matters; the movie is pure pulpy fun.
September 2, 2011
Classic detective thriller thanks to Howard Hawks expert direction of the superb casting of Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall in the lead roles. While the byzantine plot is a bit confusing (reportedly, even Raymond Chandler didn't know how one of the characters died), but Hawks direction keeps things interesting on every frame, especially when Boggy & Bacall heat up the screen, making for not only one of the best detective films ever made but the best of the Boggy/Bacall pictures. A true classic.
August 3, 2014
A complicated plot shredded into tens of pieces in which you have to bring up together to reform the original puzzle, The Big Sleep features a magnificent cast with powerful performances and a solid script and a long memorable atmosphere.
½ March 6, 2010
(First and only viewing - 5/3/2010)
½ July 12, 2014
Marlowe is certainly the original and the best. The movie is no less a complex tale than the book, but Bogart gives our protagonist grit and undeniable charm.
June 21, 2014
Overlong and complicated, The Big Sleep's status as a noir classic can be attributed largely to Bogart's lead performance.
½ July 4, 2014
The Big Sleep is an entertaining film. It is about private detective Philip Marlowe who is hired by a rich family. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall give amazing performances. The screenplay is well written. Howard Hawks did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed watching this movie because of the drama and mystery. The Big Sleep is a must see.
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