A drama of light and darkness, light itself is a nightmare to Carol Reed’s Christ, from noon to midnight is the path toward deliverance. "Will you ever be free?" "Someday, perhaps." Belfast and the IRA go unnamed yet the struggle is plain, vertigo is never far from the mind of the anxious revolutionary (James Mason), he steps out the door for a robbery and the buildings quiver and wobble. He takes a bullet in the middle of the heist and a tumble out of the getaway car, a tangle of shelters, alleys, pubs, churches and road blocks engulfs him. "A prize creature, wounded or sound," everyone wants a piece. The police inspector (Denis O’Dea) is after cold justice, the priest (W.G. Fay) craves a confession and has but "a particle of faith" to offer, the bird-selling vagabond (F.J. McCormick) waits for the best offer. The bedeviled painter (Robert Newton) needs dying eyes for his canvases and finds them in the fugitive bleeding in the atelier, just a brush between men lost in their own obsessive searches. "He’s doomed!" "So are we all." Ford’s The Informer holds formal sway, shadow and rain and snow blur in glistening corrosion for a very long Irish night. Reed’s city is a lugubrious panorama teeming with acerbic cameos, even the most compassionate of them is afraid to get involved. (Mason’s advice to the nurses who take him in: "Close the door when I’m gone, and forget me.") The older generation warns against the folly of being in love with a rebel, still the adoring accomplice (Kathleen Ryan) ventures into the maze with pistol in hand. Enduring his Calvary with polished anguish, Mason is the still center of the Dickensian whirlpool until a Corinthians verse triggers one final spasm of revelation, filmed from a low angle to catch the saliva dangling from his bottom lip. Wajda’s war trilogy absorbs it whole, the concluding Via Dolorosa is from Pépé le Moko and goes into On the Waterfront. Cinematography by Robert Krasker. With Cyril Cusack, William Hartnell, Fay Compton, Elwyn Brook-Jones, Robert Beatty, and Dan O’Herlihy. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce