Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS is the most elegant expression of the master's visual style, just as VERTIGO is the fullest expression of his obsessions. It contains some of the most effective camera shots in his--or anyone's--work, and they all lead to the great final passages in which two men find out how very wrong they both were.
This is the film, with CASABLANCA, that assures Ingrid Bergman's immortality. She plays a woman whose notorious reputation encourages U.S. agents to recruit her to spy on Nazis in postwar Rio. And that reputation nearly gets her killed, when the man she loves mistrusts her. His misunderstanding is at the center of a plot in which all of the pieces come together with perfect precision, so that two people walk down a staircase to their freedom, and a third person climbs steps to his doom.
The story stars Bergman as a patriotic American named Alicia Huberman, whose father is a convicted Nazi spy. Alicia is known for drinking and apparent promiscuity, and is recruited by an agent named Devlin (Cary Grant) to fly to Rio and insinuate herself into the household of a spy ring led by Sebastian (Claude Rains). Sebastian once loved her, and perhaps he still does; Devlin is essentially asking her to share the spy's bed to discover his secrets. And this she is willing to do, because by the time he asks her, she is in love--with Devlin. rogerebert.suntimes