The timeframe is the 1930s and the setting is Bay City, California. Our main character, a detective, has an authoritative vibe. The film opens with him having his coffee with noir music in the background, and his radio is playing news related to Adolf Hitler. Liam Neeson is Philip Marlowe, and the filmcarries the noir-like feelings from beginning to end. Marlowe is a much-needed change of scenery for Neeson. Instead of playing a character who is saving someone or something, he is playing a private detective in a bygone era. Marlowe is well-suited as a crime and mystery flick in which the conversations play an enticing role in the film’s hidden puzzles.
In Marlowe, Philip is the detective assigned to find a missing person. The one who assigns the case to him is Clare Cavendish (played by Diane Kruger). The missing person is Nico Peterson (played by Francois Arnaud). Philip’s style as a detective is quiet and organized. While he plays by the rules, Philip suspects that there are some fishy aspects to Clare. Her mother is Dorothy Cavendish (played by Jessica Lange) and the Cavendish family is loaded. They have horse stables, a huge mansion, and all kinds of luxuries. Philip questions Clare’s thinking as she is concerned about Nico missing. She appears lacking in focus and consistently exhibits hesitations. Philip is determined to find the answers. The film shifts to full detective mode as Philip talks with Floyd Hanson (played by Danny Huston). Floyd owns a high-end country club, and that is where Nico spent much of his time. Floyd is familiar with Nico’s case but does not disclose much to Philip either. The correlation, however, involves criminal activity.
Nico was known as an agent for movies, but it is clear he did side gigs to make ends meet. His side gigs were troublesome. The biggest enemy of the investigation is Lou Hendricks (played by Alan Cumming), a man who earns his money on criminal schemes. Philip Marlowe uncovers a trail with right and wrong answers, but this does not mean that everyone is telling the truth. In fact, everyone is hiding something. In Marlowe, the investigations have keys which often lead to the wrong answers and ultimately it is in the hands of Marlowe to put the pieces together of what happened to Nico. Neeson portrays an overwhelmed detective very effectively.
In its moments, Marlowe makes one aspect hold true to its timeframe. That would be that the wealthy come first. Many of the people that are in discussions with the case are wealthy or come from tons of money. That is why there is a conspiracy in Nico’s disappearance. The writing and the directing of the film prove that the wealthy characters find a way to cover their tracks. Not only their tracks, but their operations. Can Philip Marlowe find those operations on top of Nico’s disappearance though?
The film’s action and suspense are well timed, usually when the time for situations is heated. In all matters, Marlowe gets into a deeper hole of danger as the revelations throughout the investigation start to hold true. Not everyone is innocent, not everyone is being honest, and everyone lacks a sense of confidentiality. Marlowe will reveal all kinds of darker truths.
Marlowe is dry in its opening, but Neeson’s performance invigorates the film. The unexplained criminal conspiracies start to become a more important focus than the missing person situation. This approach was captivating because it gives perspective into how other parties might be involved in an unexplained crime. With the many shady personalities and the many trails of lies, Marlowe is a thriller that requires patience, but showcases expertise. Three stars for Marlowe.