In this stellar example of film noir, we open with Frank Bigelow (Edmund O’Brien) striding down a series of dark halls with lights glimmering at intervals. His destination: the Homicide Division. For he is there to report a murder – his own.
D.O.A. takes the existential question, “What’s the point?” to its very limit. An anonymous man poisons Bigelow in a bar while he’s on a trip to San Francisco, for reasons he can’t begin to imagine. The story is about his attempt to tease out the details of why this happened and who did this to him.
Getting to the bottom of the mystery turns out to be not so easy for the doomed man. Along the way, he’s beaten, lied to, manipulated – treated with every sort of indignity by the men and women he questions.
This film is fascinating for posing the bigger questions, such as why we need to know who’s done us wrong and why we seek satisfaction (in terms of revenge or justice, if possible) when doing so will change nothing, solve nothing.
It reminds me of a joke I used to tell people who asked, “What do you plan to do with your life?” I would say something like, “I figure I’ll live a few years, then eventually die.” And isn’t that what we all do ultimately?
This film gets a decided two thumbs up!