WHAT I LIKED: Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense because, rather than always keeping you guessing, his films very deliberately and sadistically tease what's going to happen before the characters catch on. Being a less atmospheric film than some of his best, 'Notorious,' achieves that in part thanks to screenwriter Ben Hecht's plot, which follows a handsome American agent (Cary Grant) who falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a dead traitor (Ingmar Bergman) whilst getting her to infiltrate a German spy network by courting its leader. We know the whole situation will just lead to heartache and jealousy from the off - jeopardising the mission, the pair's relationship, and everyone's safety - but it's the way Hitchcock directs the thing that really brings out the suspense inherent within that inevitability.
He constantly foreshadowes locales and small visual motifes so we instantly suspect what's going to happen when we see them again. He carefully and expertly uses lighting, camera angles and music to ominously suggest impending doom. And he zooms in on the characters' faces to show exactly what they're thinking before they reveal their feelings or intentions to anyone; a technique that's particularly effective when Grant and the utterly incredible Bergman are the leading couple. Their performances in fact are arguably of equal importance to the direction, as the pair avoid any potential for overracting and deliver remarkably earnest performances in what is otherwise a fairly theatrical production to build suspense perfectly.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: You're never particularly invested in the characters because, as usual, Hitchcock treates them as pawns rather than people. That's not such an issue in his more atmosphere-driven works, but here there are a lot of scenes where we're clearly supposed to feel some kind of sorrow or empathy for these people who, ultimately, have very little humanity or chemistry themselves.
VERDICT: Though far from his most atmospheric work, 'Notorious,' once again sees Hitchcock prove himself as the master of suspense.