The film is based on a book from crime novelist Raymond Chandler and its anti-hero is Philip Marlowe, a moody private investigator interpreted with a lot of oomph by the always enjoyable Humphrey Bogart. With his hat, his trenchcoat and his constant drinking and chain-smoking, he’s the archetypal private dick. Smart-ass, arrogant and playful, he can still get the job done like the best of them. He’s not too fond of people trying to control or use them, and this particular job will make him figure out a lot of people and all of their private agendas.
He’s hired by General Sternwood, a crippled old millionaire who’s being blackmailed about his daughter Carmen, a manipulative tramp who’s high more often than not. Yet Marlowe’s task won’t be that simple. Before long, he’s got to handle the old man’s other girl Vivian (the charming Lauren Bacall), who seems to have reasons of her own to get in Marlowe’s way, the most obvious being that she has the hots for him. They won’t have the opportunity to flirt that much though, because a lot of people have a beef with the p.i. There’s a racketeer who may or may not be dead, a chauffeur who likes his client a bit too much, a gambler with some other shady hobbies, another detective who’s after a married woman and many others. No need to tell you that the film has one helluvah labyrinthine, intricate and complex story. Marlowe’s really in over his head. I’ll tell you honestly, I’m not sure I understood every single twist and motive, but I still enjoyed grandly the picture. It’s smart and ingenious, Howard Hawks‘ direction gives the film terrific atmosphere and the interaction between the actors is exhilarating. Bogart is so hellacool to watch! I love the way he can be tough with bad guys and then irresistibly seductive with women. There’s also a lot of welcomed humor in the film. “The Big Sleep” is a great achievement, both a crowd-pleaser and a thoughtful, well crafted masterpiece.