Two professional killers invade a small town and kill a gas station attendant, “the Swede,” who’s expecting them. Insurance investigator Reardon pursues the case against the orders of his boss, who considers it trivial.
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Lancaster's searingly modern performance adds to the mythology of the Swede created by the Citizen Kane structure. There's something so raw, strong and empathic about the way he broods onscreen, something about how he projects into an authentic lived-in space, not simply in isolation for the benefit of the camera. Still, the film feels cramped and constricted by its own narrative devices and iconography.
Siodmak is obsessed by mirrors... This is a story of phantoms and double games, with great narrative and style inventions. The sequence in which Ava Gardner makes her first apparition is stunning (the découpage, the composition of the frames, etc.). However, I prefer other Siodmak's films (for example Criss Cross).
Quintessential noir, applying the Citizen Kane structure to a series of twists that, for a noir, actually make sense. Ava Gardner's final moment is in the femme fatale hall of fame, Burt Lanchaster has the air of a fallen angel, and the heist scene is the best before Rififi, which is the best ever. Note: our gumshoe is an insurance investigator—these days, only vested financial interests bother hunting for the truth.
Great Noir. I love the structure of the storytelling, the characters, the performances, the femme fatale, the ill-fated protagonist, the nuance, the twists and turns and even the story is gripping. So far, this might be my second favorite Noir after Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity".