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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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".
It seems to me that most noir films are about the search for the truth, and if and when it is found it is usually that of fatalistic betrayal, greed, and sometimes self-destruction. I loved the pervading atmosphere of dread and the exquisite cinematography of this film which highlights and comments on what the characters are experiencing. The Swede is such a compelling character (Lancaster plays him with true verve)