Carol Reed’s The Third Man

Today i watched Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949)

the_third_man

Holly Martins, an American writer of pulp westerns, is broke and finds himself following a job offer in post war Vienna.  When he gets there he finds that the man who invited him, an old friend named Harry Lime, is dead.  And with this provocative opening Martins and the audience are flung into a dark conspiracy.

The Third Man is a British noir film with all the trappings of the genre, the dark moody cinematography and lighting, the moral ambiguity, and the mysterious motivations are all present.  Reed excels at using every tool available to him to create an intense sense of place and mystery.  Location shoots in the yet to be rebuilt Vienna make the urban landscape unique in a genre dominated by the metropolitan.  The soundtrack is another unique element, composed by Anton karas, is almost entirely played upon a zither and it grants a unique flavour to the film, It fits perfectly and reinforces the mood everywhere.

Every member of the cast is great, Joseph Cotten as the lead is charismatic and brings an appreciable wit to the film.  But it is Orson Welles as the antagonist who elevates this movie from great to true classic.  While Welles is well known as one of the greatest directors of all time, he seems to get passed up as the great actor he was.  Welles’ deeply layered and thought provoking performance is pure movie magic.

The Third Man is a must see movie for any and all cinephiles. It’s masterful atmosphere and technical achievements would be worth it alone but the stellar cast elevates it even further with deep humanity and gravitas.  It is never boring with a slick pace and touches of humour throughout, it is very much so worth your time to see.  5/5

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