It’s time for a classic Alfred Hitchcock film. He’s made quite a few good mystery thrillers over the years and his writing skills are always consistent. That being said, this is definitely one of those plots that doesn’t really age well, or you could make the stronger case that it was never a good plot. As such, the very concept of it limits the execution quite a bit. It’s not a film that is nearly as enjoyable as his average flick, but still retains more dignity than other films of its nature would nowadays.
The movie starts off with someone being arrested as a Nazi spy. He is arrested and taken to the chair, but the government isn’t able to get a whole lot of useful information out of it. As such, Agent Devlin is instructed to locate the traitor’s daughter Alicia, as she has long been opposed to his betrayal. She is reluctant to do so, but Devlin gets her on board eventually. That’s when he learns the truth of her mission, Alicia is to marry the leader of the Nazi faction Alex and gain access to all of the secrets. Devlin has a tough choice to make. He can say no to the order and escape with Alicia or he can go through with the whole thing. Ultimately he is too scared to go with the former option so he ends up going with the latter. That’s where I lost all respect for Devlin and he never quite recovered from that. Alicia is proving to be successful at her role, but can she keep this up or will she ultimately be found out and bumped off?
It’s a mission with high stakes, but it’s such a dicey mission that there is no longer a side to root for. The only sympathetic character here is Alicia. She does a lot of stuff she did not want to do all to help Devlin out. It’s not even so much about helping the country, but just making sure that things go well for Devlin. He’s definitely not a very grateful recipient about this though and constantly treats her coldly. It’s too bad for Alicia, but at least her ending is fairly positive at least. She can be rather proud just like Devlin but you can’t blame her since otherwise she would just be caving in every time. I can’t really blame her for anything in this film, she’s at least doing her best. I don’t agree with her mission, but I blame the ones giving it to her more than her carrying it out.
That’s why Devlin was doomed. He basically spends the entire movie sulking and whining. The guy’s a terrible agent as he couldn’t even guess what the mission was until it was told to him plainly. We’re supposed to take this guy seriously as an elite agent? He’s a scrub and I’ll go more into that later on. Agents can’t let emotions sway them but they constantly do for Devlin to the point where he makes all of the wrong calls. If you’re going to be emotionally driven then at least let it help you out. It’s like Devlin can’t do anything right. It may be harsh, but he was an absolutely terrible character. If anything Alex was far better.
Alex is the main villain and we can’t forget that. However, at least he acts like a decent guy beyond that. He’s polite to Alicia and trusts her quite a bit. He gives her freedom and the benefit of the doubt quite a bit. It’s only once it becomes obvious that she is cheating on him that he turns. Even then he is able to stay in control and goes through with a pretty diabolical plan (Not of his origin but at least he followed it) rather than falling into a panic. He’s the antagonist, but he’s a well written one and just seems like a more quality character than Devlin.
Lets go back to Devlin. As I mentioned, Alex eventually starts piecing it together that Alicia is a traitor. Why was he able to do that? Well, the official plan is that Devlin and Alicia are to meet just about every day at a public park. They will be meeting there every day and could not be more obvious if they tried. Still, somehow they get away with it for a while so then they decide to escalate this. They meet up at the horse races where Alex and his mother are. Keep in mind that he’s the top ranking member of the organization so it would make sense that he has minions and generals watching his every move as well as watching her. Alicia and Devlin don’t take this into consideration and meet up for a while. They’re caught of course. As such, Alicia invites Devlin to the house where they can’t control themselves and are caught in the act once more.
They make so many crazy moves that you would be forgiven for mistaking this for a horror movie. Finally they make the worst decision of the film. It’s so huge that you could basically call it a plot hole if we assume that Devlin is even remotely intelligent but we won’t make that mistake. The mysterious dust is being kept in Wine bottles so Devlin has Alicia steal the key so he can check it out. Of course Devlin drops one of the bottles so it breaks. He sweeps it under the drawer and then puts another one in its place. He gives Alicia the key (Too late at this point) and runs away. So…Alicia forgets all about the key. Shouldn’t she have realized that Alex couldn’t get into the wine cellar without it and so he would realize that someone had swiped it? It becomes increasingly obvious that Alicia swiped it and the whole thing is just pretty sad for all parties involved.
You definitely won’t have a positive impression of the government in this film by the end. Their dangerous mission for Alicia proved to be basically pointless by the end. I also feel like they could have all just busted into the building since they knew where the base was and then they could have grabbed all of the bottles. Even having Alicia marry the villain showed that these government guys couldn’t care less what happens to her. That kind of ruthless government isn’t uncommon but it doesn’t make them any less antagonistic.
Overall, Notorious is definitely an engaging film, but one that proves to be more frustrating than enjoyable at times. It’s similar to the Mission Impossible 2 plot and if even that series couldn’t pull it off, what chance does this movie have? Whenever a plot involves an agent having to go all in with the villain the movie is probably doomed. It’s just not a plot that I can get behind, nor do I think that will ever change. If you can get past that then this is a reasonable suspense thriller, but otherwise you’re better off watching almost any of his other installments.