Friday, October 21, 2011

Crossfire (1947)

A Fiery Film Noir

- Crossfire (1947) is a fantastic film noir that is both a product of its time and a timeless classic. This film achieves this by addressing issues that have not been brought to the screen before its 1947 release, and by being a high quality film that holds up to this day with a good script, great look, and fantastic performances from its actors. The first American film to take the issue of anti-Semitism head on, Crossfire is cemented in classic standing. Set in post-World War II America, a lurid whodunit develops after a Jewish man is found murdered.

The story is great, its anti-hatred theme wrapped up in a dark multiple-character crime thriller, and alongside the anti-Semitism angle is some great post-World War II dialogue and themes as well. Unlike other mystery thrillers, the audience is alerted to who the perpetrator is almost immediately. However, the film's story is still engrossing because of the struggle of all the great characters involved are going through while trying to make sense of the situation. Outside the great overall story and themes, the entire script is simply smart, complete with meaningful messages and razor-sharp exchanges between characters.

The film's captivating story is played out wonderfully by the its excellent cast. Robert Young is fantastic as Capt. Finlay, the leading investigator of the murder case. Finlay's my favorite character of the film; Young gives the character a very cool, composed presence that makes the character simply fun to watch - dry as bone and tough as a two-by-four and stopping at nothing to bring the killer to justice. Robert Mitchum is also a great stand-out member of the film; very vivid and often funny through his soft-spoken, laid-back characterization of Keeley. Gloria Grahame gives a memorable performance in her small Oscar-nominated role; George Cooper also does a good job as the sick and distressed Corporal Mitchell; Paul Kelly gives an eerie portrayal of a bizarre character; and Steve Brodie, Sam Levene, Jacqueline White, and William Phipps also give strong supporting performances. Robert Ryan ends up being the most talked about performer of the film - and for good reason. Ryan gives the performance of his career, earning him an Oscar nomination; it is a chilling portrayal of the intense Montgomery character.

Crossfire has a great cast that sort of defines the film's legacy (especially the "Three Bobs" Young, Mitchum and Ryan) but it also has a terrific visual presentation and subsequent atmosphere. Director Edward Dmytryk does an extraordinary job with the film's execution and cinematographer J. Roy Hunt does a masterful job with its black and white picture. The picture is as dark and dank as its themes, covered in shadow with an almost glossy overtone, yet also very raw in parts. Ironically, the film's great look was not the result of hard work - or even intention. Dmytryk wanted to spend more time and money on the actors rather than the lighting - so that is what he did. Less lights and less preparation (around a 6 hour work day) on set resulted in a fantastic looking film.
Not just a well done piece of cinematic art, Crossfire is also a great example of a cheap film that ends up a rich classic.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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