Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Film Review: Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown (Review)
United States/1974
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...the less you know going in, the more effective the experience."

Private investigator J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Diane Ladd) to spy on her husband, Hollis Mulwray, the chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. After photographs of Mulwray are published on the paper, Gittes is approached by Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) -- the real Evelyn Mulwray.

Chinatown continues to follow Gittes as he attempts to find out who set him up. Gittes, instead, finds himself in a web of lies, or better yet, an ocean of lies and half-truths. The mystery unfolds with a twist and turn at every corner; who really is this? who really is that? and, why? -- the questions that will Gittes will ask the strongest and shadiest people. This hunt for the truth ends with a jaw-dropping ending -- the truth hurts.

I purposely kept the description brief and ambiguous. Chinatown is a mystery film, after all, and I wouldn't want to take the fun away from you. The investigation is reliant on its engaging dialogue and intense encounters, along with incredible and well-placed twists; the investigation genuinely kept me interested, I even considered breaking out a notepad to follow along. The story is briskly paced and eventful, keeping the movie consistent and relevant.

Jack Nicholson is fantastic as the lead with coming off as genuinely charismatic; his expressions are always accurate and really speak for themselves, especially at the end. The rest of the cast is also superb, although they share less screen time. The era is captured perfectly through the magnificent set and costume design, and the great music. Now, the cinematography is superb. The engaging camerawork is masterful in creating an immersive atmosphere -- this is a film that is creatively and stylishly shot, and, in turn, stands the test of time. Robert Towne's writing is flawless, as is Roman Polanski's direction.

Overall, Chinatown is an incredibly engaging and entertaining mystery film. I was glued to the screen for its complete runtime -- from the initial investigation to the superb finale. Remember, I purposely skimped out on details (notice the shorter review) -- the less you know going in, the more effective the experience.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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