A neo-noir masterpiece: L.A Confidential turns twenty
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If you were to watch L.A Confidential today, you’d find it hard to believe it's twenty years old. Based on James Ellroy’s book of the same name, the neo-noir crime thriller was a huge success upon its release in 1997 and its fantastic visuals and all-star cast remain a match for any modern-day blockbuster. The secret behind the film's success though, and the reason it holds up so well today, is the care that went into perfecting every detail, from the in-depth characters to the believable setting. The atmosphere is an incredibly important part of L.A Confidential with 1950’s Los Angeles being wonderfully realised by director Curtis Hanson. The city feels like a realistic interpretation of the time period rather than a cartoonish Golden Age of Hollywood approach and although there aspects of that in the film, they feel far more grounded in reality, and are even poked fun at in Danny DeVito’s opening monologue. The film digs into the dirty side of Los Angeles during this time period, with a lot of focus on corruption, organised crime and racism to name a few. Going into the darker parts of the city’s history makes the film feel more authentic and plays into its running theme of exposing the façade of an idyllic Los Angeles. It’s not all so dour though as L.A Confidential also captures the more glamorous side of the city of angels. The fictional TV show Badge of Honor is a nice call back to old detective dramas of the era whilst the excellent use of soundtrack allows for some 40s and 50s classics to add further authenticity. The film’s setting doesn’t make it great on its own though. Luckily L.A Confidential has a wealth of memorable characters populating the sprawling city, each with their own distinct personalities. The three lead characters are really what makes the film so memorable with some exceptional acting talent on display. Kevin Spacey is perfectly cast as the suave celebrity cop Jack Vincennes with the character’s big personality matching that of Spacey himself. However, as well as charm and wit, the actor also brings some genuine humanity to the character with his performance getting deeper as the film goes on.
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