Synopsis – As corruption grows in 1950s Los Angeles, three policemen – one strait-laced, one brutal, and one sleazy – investigate a series of murders with their own brand of justice – L.A. Confidential
Director – Curtis Hanson
Released – 1997
For fans of – Miller’s Crossing, Mulholland Drive, The Untouchables
The judges at that year’s Oscars might have felt Titanic was more deserving of Best Picture, yet, for me, Curtis Hanson’s crime noir L.A. Confidential isn’t just the best movie of 1997, this detective story about the sleazy side of the golden era Hollywood boasts one of the most skillfully crafted and timeless screenplays of the decade.
The film itself is a dense mixture of multiple plot points and intersecting strands, prostitution, murder, sleaze, paparazzi and the corruption of people in positions of authority, that maintains your attention despite the movie’s long run-time, not allowing you time to look away for fear of missing an all-important clue as to where the story is heading and the fates of the group of well-developed characters you’ve grown to love or hate, while the mid-point sequence that trick the audience and main characters into thinking the clues are pointing towards one outcome, only for the rug to be pulled out from under them is a mark of genius, leaving you knowing that everything isn’t all it seems and to trust no-one
Arguably Hanson’s best-ever work, L. A Confidential is a visual delight that reminds me greatly of Micheal Mann’s 1995’s Crime thriller Heat, only more colourful (as you would expect from a film taking place during the height of Hollywood’s golden era. Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is both audacious, stylish and suitably outlandish, aided greatly by a skilful soundtrack from Jerry Goldsmith.
The movie also benefits from exceptional acting across the board. How none of the leading men ( Crowe, Pearce and Spacey) wasn’t nominated for the Oscars seems a strange omission to me. Spacey in particular is brilliant, though it was Crowe’s hard man with a heart of gold that stole the show and Pearce has rarely been better. I should also mention that both James Cromwell and Danny De Vito shine in roles that some may feel a tad stereotypical, yet I couldn’t help but love. The only thing I believe is up for debate is if Kim Basinger was involved in the story or did enough to justify her Oscar win, Personally I feel Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights was a more deserving winner.
All in all, L.A. Confidential is the kinda movie that reminds me why I love movies. For all the reasons I have stated above and many more, this is a cinephile’s dream and one of a few films that truly deserve the title; ‘masterpiece’.