Whilst my first outing with director Nicholas Ray wasn’t the most fundamentally interesting experience, I was still excited to see what else he had to offer. Rebel Without a Cause had some nice camerawork, and the express vision of the director seemed rather strong, so checking out In A Lonely Place, an earlier film from Ray’s filmography starring Humphrey Bogart, was definitely on the agenda. A suspenseful, chilling thriller that pulls Bogart into a film regarded as his finest performance of all, it’s hard not to overstate how monumentally great the film has been perceived by audiences, and my expectations were astronomically high for this pairing of Ray and Bogart.
I can’t say I was disappointed with the pairing, In A Lonely Place is a marvellously charismatic movie that has all the hallmarks of an effective, light thriller that leans on its drama a tad too heavily from time to time. We’re lucky enough to have some convincing leading performances, with Bogart dominating the screen with ease from start to finish. His brutish behaviour and disgruntled outlook on the business that has both crafted and cost him his career is one that Bogart balances with extreme ease. Out of the few roles of his I’ve seen so far, I’m rather convinced that this is indeed his best performance. He articulates the script with such passion and confidence, keeping you wondering if he really is guilty the whole way through.
A good performance lives or dies on how well managed the script is, and in the case of In A Lonely Place, it’s a perfect example of balancing strong dialogue and character study. We’re left with ample time to get to know these characters, but it’s the frank, honest and rather blunt dialogue that allows for this opening. Charismatic performances and crystal-clear motives are found throughout, it makes our leading character and his shrouded mystery stand out even more than expected. With such intense interest placed on Bogart, it’s impressive that he can rise to the challenge of creating such a great performance with such ease.
Dixon “Dix” Steele (Bogart) may not be the most memorable of names, but the iconography of Hollywood fallout, mixed in with a tantalising murder makes In a Lonely Place feel like lightning in a bottle. A concise thriller, firmly grounded in the notion that Steele is a brute, but a man who doesn’t possess the calibre to perform such a horrid act. Frank Lovejoy and Carl Benton Reid do wonders with their supporting roles as detectives on the case, pursuing leads that all lead back to Steele, who brushes their inquiries off as time-wasting annoyances. A film so enthralled by its performances that it gives the actors more than enough time to breathe, it’s a real sight to behold and a brilliant experience.
In a Lonely Place is a great thriller, there’s nothing more that can be said for it aside from that. Great performances, some strong direction from Ray and a script that will manage to hook thriller fans in from the very beginning. Bogart’s dedication to his role alongside Gloria Grahame’s attentive role in picking apart the narrative Steele tries to spin. All of it comes together in tremendous style, a tight thriller that stands up seventy years after its initial release. A real testament to how well some films can hold together, all thanks to some talented stars of Hollywood’s golden era.