It’s time for the next installment in the Bogart and Bacall series. This film is still a mystery, but it’s not as much of a focus as it was in the last film. The plot involves the mystery of course, but it’s also a thriller as the hero has to stay low to make sure that the cops don’t find him. It’s another solid film from the 40’s and it holds up pretty well. There is one aspect of it that I can’t say that I’m crazy about and it involves the camera angles. Beyond that, it looks like we’ve picked another winner!
The plot involves Vincent, an escaped convict. He has been charged with murdering his wife and he was going to be locked up for a very long time..unless he goes to the gas chamber. None of those options appeal to Vincent so he somehow manages to break out of jail and jump onto a prison transport while riding in a barrel. He rolls his way into a lake and knocks out a driver who was passing by. Things are still pretty dangerous for him when a mysterious lady tells him to get into her car as she takes him home. How many hidden agendas does this lady have and is Vincent really safe here? Things are going to get tough for Vincent and we aren’t even sure if we should root for him. After all…what if the charges are true!?
Vincent is not quite as interesting as the last two leads that we had for the 40’s films. He’s not quite as bold or confident. He’s not timid, but he’s not quick to insult everyone and make a lot of witty comebacks. He does go into rage mode once his friend is taken out of the picture (He denies this of course) and he’s a decent fighter. Still, Vincent could have handled the situation better if he didn’t keep making unnecessary errors. “Why did you want the Sports section Vince” “I wanted to see how the Miami horses were doing” “Those finished months ago….GET HIM!” is basically how one scene goes down. At least choose something like Baseball where you can be sure that it’s still active. He claims to have played it so he should know if it’s in the off season or not. Something easy like Baseball would have really helped him when he was in a tough spot.
Irene is a character that did trick me so I will give props there. I was waiting for her to betray Vincent or to unleash her master plan. I kept waiting and waiting until the credits started rolling. She’s all right I suppose, but her strategy is definitely more than a little risky. There was still the chance that Vincent was a murderer. (Although Irene did have some decent evidence that suggested otherwise) She’s not a fighter and she doesn’t have a gun so she doesn’t get to help that much in the climax, but she certainly helps Vincent a lot when he’s in a pinch.
Madge is the lady next door who is worried about Vincent’s possible arrival into the state. She believes that Vincent will come after her and it’s a very delicate situation. They certainly don’t get along, but it seems like nobody really gets along with her. There’s not much to say about Madge here since she’s deeply entangled into the plot, but I can’t say that she’s a great character.
Sam is pretty good since he sees through Vincent’s facade without any effort. This is definitely a guy who could be a detective and the veiled threats start to get pretty intense until you realize that he has a master plan in all of this. I’d definitely say that he’s one of the better characters in the film. He doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime, but he was certainly memorable.
We had some side characters as well, but they didn’t do a whole lot. The plastic surgeon is there to help. He makes a joke about how he could wreck Vincent’s life, but at least he was just joking. Another character by the name of Bob didn’t realize the dangers of romance until it was too late. It’s a common story for many people. Vincent also had a friend who was pretty nervous the whole time, but he still pulled it together when he had too. If only he was a bit of a better fighter.
One of the dicier parts of the film is the first person camera strategy that is used for the first half of the film. I’ve never been a fan of the found footage genre and it only works for certain parts. It’s kind of interesting to see everything through the main character’s eyes, but I think it would work best if only used sometimes. It would definitely be tough to implement, but I’m sure that they can pull it off. The thing with first person is…it works best for interactive rides or (very small) segments of a video game or movie/episode. It can be used for drama and suspense. That is where the first person look works best.
There is naturally some plot hax to be found here since most escape films need them. How did Vincent get out of prison to go in the barrel? Why did the guard do such a terrible job of checking Irene’s car? How come the villains are all geniuses? These are questions that you may ask yourself as you watch the film. They aren’t huge, but you’ll still wonder about these scenes. Especially the first two since the film should have easily have been able to think of a more believable scenario.
No matter how you look at it, the second half of the film is a lot more exciting than the first parts. We get to see the lead get into a gun fight and put all of the pieces together. It feels more like the other two films since Vincent gets to use his experience to try and win the day. The film is still missing something though and it’s hard to place your finger on it. It’s still missing most of the soundtrack, but the writing is solid. The only thing that I can come up with is that the plot isn’t quite as engaging as one would expect. That…or the stakes are just too low. It’s a little hard to figure, but that does end up hurting the film a little bit.
Overall, Dark Passage was a pretty good film. The characters were definitely weaker than their counterparts in the other Bogart/Bacall films, but they were good enough. They would still be much better than your average protagonist of the modern day films. The camera work didn’t click with me though and it means that we didn’t really get to see the main character for a while. The film’s main problem is that it’s just less interesting than the last two. Of course, it is still a pretty good film overall and you should enjoy it if you like a casual escape story/mystery. I would sooner recommend another Bogart and Bacall team up, but I’m sure that any moviegoer will want to see the full set. So prepare yourself!