I am a true believe that the best films that Hollywood ever produced came from the 1940s. Whether it was in the early 40s like the film Gaslight or later like Lean's Great Expectations, I have never seen so many great stories with so much originality, humanity, and creativity. Impact is no different. What transformed this picture from your typical film-noir thriller into a full-fledged murder/mystery is not just the creative story, but also the strong characters, the twisting themes, and the questionable ending. Impact could not have been as fascinating as it was if it were not for the impressive story. From the opening scene, we think that we have this film already pegged as your typical "wife cheats on man and he now wants revenge" story, but as director Arthur Lubin guides us further down his diabolical path, we learn that there is going to be more surprises than we originally anticipated. These surprises will not only lock your jaw in a shocked position, but it will also provide 111 minutes of pure uncut film-noir.
I have read other reviews that claim that Impact does not fall within the typical film-noir genre. I see where they are saying this, but I do not agree. Lubin, I believe, was creating a classy film-noir for his audience, but he tricked us. He not only tricked us from the beginning of the film to the end, but also where the film-noir style should be placed. We assume that the because Brian Donlevy is our centralized character that he has to be the dark and brooding one the entire time, causing the sensation of film-noir. I saw this film in a different light. As Lubin kept Donlevy in the eye of the camera for most of the film, I thought that the true sinister, dark, brooding, spooky, and edgy character was Irene. Helen Walker did a superb job with this role. Not only did she portray the backstabbing wife with such precision and ease, but she also played this very strong character that I was not expecting. That sensation of film-noir with the themes of suspicion, anxiety, and pessimism are all collected well within Walker's portrayal of Irene. It is this character that fully embodies the idea of film-noir, and I couldn't keep my eyes off her the entire film. To see such a powerful female character in such an early age of Hollywood impressed me. I do not see why Impact has not made a bigger impression in the film communities. It is a landmark film that will keep you guessing in a better way than any Shyamalan film will.
Even if you cannot agree with me about Lubin's slight of "film-noir" hands, it is unmistakably true that Impact contains some of the best story coupled with acting that we have seen in quite a long time. Even in today's Hollywood you just do not see this type of intensity, excitement, and curiosity as you found in Impact. I would not be surprised if we eventually saw a remake of this film in the future. It has all the elements that one would desire to be a box-office sensation; an evil wife, a passionate husband, and a dark secret. Who wouldn't love to see this? I personally could not keep my eyes off the story or the actors in this film. Brian Donlevy was beyond normal as the disarmed man facing the truth that his wife is no longer in love with him. This being my first Donlevy film, I cannot wait to see other pieces of his work. I think he was both strong and weak enough to carry the picture. He had to show that he still loved his wife, no matter what she did, and he pulled it off with so much dedication that I nearly wanted to stand up and clap for him in my living room. I have already spoken on Irene, who I believe matched Donlevy straw for straw. Lubin needed a character that was going to counter Donlevy's like-ability, and Helen Walker did just that. As audience members, we wanted to love her and hate her at the same time. Ella Raines was nothing spectacular, but did bring this light pro-feminism theme into this light film-noir thriller. Tony Barrett was the epitome of evil; never breaking character and always making me feel slimy. My personal favorite character was Lt. Tom Quincy. I have seen many parodies when they would use the southern flatfoot, but I had never seen a film that utilized this cliché character. Impact did it and Charles Coburn perfected it. As he attempted to solve the crime, he used the vice of kindness and dedication, making this critic smile with delight. He carried the truth of this film on his back without any struggle at all.
Overall, I thought that Impact was yet another great film that I can attribute to the 1940s. I don't know who the brains were during this cinematic time, but I wish I could go back and shake their hands. Their imagination, ability to keep audiences guessing, as well as produce great "B" level actors giving more than 100% of their abilities to a film is nearly impossible to find today. I would have loved to live during this era and see these films in the smoky auditoriums packed with untouched minds. Impact was nearly flawless. I guess it dragged sometimes, and the ending seemed to be wrapped up a bit too quickly (again, the happy factor wasn't needed at the end), but this film kept my attention throughout. I cannot wait to show this movie to friends and family. To fully see where we get our ideas for our films in the year 2006, we must make sure that we respect the films from the 1940s. Impact should be at the top of every film enthusiast's list!
Grade: ***** out of *****
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