Chinatown (R) - 1974 - Runtime: 131 minutes
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
Director: Roman Polanski
This movie had been sitting in my Blockbuster envelope for quite some time. I forgot I had it next on my queue and when it came, I don't think I was in the mood. But somehow, I managed to put the disc in one afternoon and slowly became immersed in one of the best noir movies I've seen (I seem to be on a kick with this kind of movie - it's turning into one of my favorite genres, even if they all seem to follow the same formula.
Jack Nicholson plays Jake Gittes a private detective (what else, right?) who mainly deals with cheating husbands and wives. When he gets hired to follow the city's water engineer, who's suspected of cheating on his wife. But it isn't the usual case and soon Jake finds himself caught up in a conspiracy involving land, water supply and murder. It all unravels so well that you'll find yourself done with the movie before you know it. The movie deals with a very serious topic back in the early twentieth century where there were huge disputes over land and water rights. Jake's story all ties in very nicely to something much larger than just murder. And beneath a smart detective story, there's more to tell.
I love these kinds of movies because I find this era (late 1800s and early 1900s) fascinating - it's a time of tons of growth and change for America. And despite all this change, America sometimes feels like a foreign land, ready to be tapped for it's potential. That's part of the reason why I love There Will Be Blood so much - it's just so damn absorbing. And that's how I felt about Chinatown - it's a great way to delve into subjects talked about in the movie. I'll find myself browsing Wikipedia after the movie just to get more information. To me, those are the best movies, when you think about them after it's all done.
It also doesn't hurt that the movie's plot is so well written. You're never given too much information, you're put in Jake's shoes and you're just as invested into figuring out what the hell is going on as he is. And it unfolds at the just the right pace, so that you're not dissatisfied. And, obviously, Jack Nicholson is great in this movie and so is Faye Dunaway. You're always guessing as to whether she's a femme fatale in this movie or if she's just a victim. It speaks volumes to the writing and her performance that she treads that fine line.
It's a great noir film that will keep you guessing and the performances are just fantastic. If you like movies like L.A. Confidential, this one is right up there.
Rating: Rent It!