While it is true that not all murder mysteries may have a clear protagonist and an arc, I will suggest that the movies that have both, emotionally connect with audiences.
Tonight we watched SUSPECT (1987) which is a great film noir, detective story that is a text book example of following many of the genre's rules, but switching enough of them around to make the movie interesting and satisfying right up to the end. It was a good investment of time.
No spoilers here, but I will share a few things that will make the movie more satisfying to watch.
The story in short from IMDB (Sami Al-Taher):
A judge commits suicide, and his secretary is found murdered. A homeless deaf-mute man, Carl Anderson is arrested for her murder. Public defender Kathleen is assigned by the court as his lawyer. She sets to find the real killer, and gets help from the congressional advisor, Eddie Sanger who is called to be on the jury panel. Together they discover a dangerous circle of corruption in high places.
|Kathleen, a public defender, is the protagonist.|
She has a clear arc and a Moment of Grace at the 50% mark.
So, here are a few things to make the movie even better to watch:
Protagonist: Kathleen Riley (Cher)
Embracing the law for what is false leads to guilt; butMoment of Grace explanation:
Breaking the law for what is true leads to innocence.
|The scene right after the Moment of Grace, which demonstrates|
Kathleen's willingness to accept help from Eddie. Here she
returns the grace he offers by bandaging him up.
But Eddie is persistent. In the middle of the story (at the 50% mark) another drifter who knows Carl, threatens Kathleen's life, and is about ready to kill Kathleen when Eddie shows up and saves her. Eddie's appearance in this scene in saving Kathleen from death is the moment of grace. Eddie brings "GRACE" to Kathleen in two ways: (1) by saving her life, and thus convincing her to risk disbarment for the ruth; and (2) let him help her for the second half of the movie by being her investigator.
Thus, Kathleen arcs from embracing the law and letting Carl be found guilty, to breaking the law so they can find Carl innocent. AND IN THAT, we have a good hook:
Harassed public defender breaks the law to procure justice.There are many other beats in SUSPECTS that match traditional story structure.