Starring: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb
Director: Otto Preminger
Running Time: 88 mins
Laura is an American film about a detective who begins to fall in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating.
The premise alone makes Laura sound like the ultimate film-noir, with murder, romance and unpredictability at every turn. However, just playing to the film-noir formula doesn’t really do enough for the film to be a really engrossing watch, instead proving somewhat underwhelming when it comes to the mystery side of things, and ultimately missing out on the opportunity to be a real classic of the genre.
But we’ll start on the bright side, mostly with the fact that the movie fulfils all the criteria of a typical film-noir. It’s as visually striking as you’d normally expect from the genre, and that goes a long way to giving the film that classically incisive atmosphere that normally works so well to provide a riveting and unnerving mystery.
What’s more is that the lead trio of Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb all do a good job at bringing their characters to life, and although Andrews is no Humphrey Bogart, and Tierney isn’t the world’s most thrilling femme fatale, they are entertaining to watch throughout, while Webb manages to bring some good drama and mystery to his character as well, grabbing your attention whenever it’s his character at the centre of affairs.
With all that said, however, I can’t say that I found Laura the most enthralling crime thriller of all time. Yes, it has all the ingredients of a good film-noir, but its biggest issues come from the fact that it plays out far too slowly, and doesn’t ever have the passion and sheer thrills of the genre’s best.
So, while we see Dana Andrews going about his business investigating the case, his story isn’t the most interesting simply because it feels like he’s just filling a role in the wider events of the murder of Laura. Unlike what we see in The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and more, Laura fails to make its lead detective an active player in the story’s overall development, and as he’s the character that you as a viewer look to to grab onto the story, it makes for somewhat of an underwhelming watch.
What’s more is that the film plays out far too slowly and episodically to be a properly thrilling mystery. A movie like this doesn’t have to move along at a million miles an hour to be exciting, however what Laura fails to do is keep up a consistent pace over its whole duration, too often jumping back and forth between present day and flashbacks to make for a fully coherent and smooth pace throughout, which became frustrating rather quickly, and definitely had an impact on how engrossed I was in the story.
Overall, I was disappointed by Laura. It’s not an awful film, and with some strong performances and classic film-noir vibes it makes for a passable watch, however it just doesn’t have the passion or pace to really rank as a properly good mystery, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0.