Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder ★★★★

Dial M for Murder may never reach the incredible heights of Hitchcock’s best, but it’s still an enjoyable and effectively unpredictable thriller.

The plot is methodical and without frills—it sometimes teeters on the edge of feeling like a procedural. It removes almost all potentially extraneous material such as character development and focuses on the execution and discovery of a murder. That may sound dry, but it ends up being wholly involving for two main reasons. The first is that the plot is so good. The film moves efficiently from point to point, using the perfect amount of humor to lighten the dark subject matter. The solution is satisfying, surprising, and believable—having been hinted at just enough but not too much. This is a well-made genre story, even if the lack of anything else to latch onto in the screenplay means that it’s never great.

The other reason the film ends up working is the acting. Every member of the cast is up to the task, suggesting character and personality through small details without detracting from the brisk plot. The best of them—perhaps just because he gets the most screentime—is Ray Milland as Tony. He’s clever enough to always be exciting to watch, and Milland never negates this or makes him remotely sympathetic. He takes the exact same tone for the entire film. Whether making small talk, plotting a murder, or fearing for his life, he doesn’t seem to care about anything, not even himself (as shown in the masterful ending). If this means he’s too one-note to be an all-time great villain, that “problem” is more than offset by what works here.

Basically, this is a film made up of a lot of good elements and almost no bad or great ones. It never comes close to being a masterpiece, but it’s a strong, confident piece of filmmaking from a master of his craft.

Dial M for Murder is solidly engaging and exciting, even if it’s not much more.


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