Starring: Joseph Cotten, Valli, Orson Welles
Director: Carol Reed
Running Time: 105 mins
The Third Man is a British film about writer Holly Martins, a man who travels to Vienna to meet up with an old friend, Harry Lime. However, upon arriving, he discovers Lime in fact died not long ago in a mysterious accident, and so Martins sets out to find out just what happened to his friend.
This isn’t just a classic and enthralling film-noir, it’s also one of the most entertaining from the entire genre. Mixing a brilliantly mysterious story, beautiful directing and cinematography, and, rather surprisingly, a lot of good humour, The Third Man is a great watch.
First of all, let’s talk about the story, which is really impressive. A lot of film-noirs definitely have the mystery element down, but few do it as well, and as excitingly as The Third Man. I’m not the biggest fan of the genre in truth, but I was genuinely hooked on the story in this film, with its brilliantly building of suspense and tension over the course of its first two acts, and then its explosion in the hugely exciting finale.
Rather than take a more orthodox approach to the mystery at hand, The Third Man is particularly impressive for leaving you guessing about everything right up until the end. I had no way of telling who was really on what side in this film, and as the excitement builds, and the plot develops even more intricacies, it becomes almost impossible to predict what will happen, and that makes for truly riveting watching throughout.
Now, moving onto the performances, which are excellent too. Although I wasn’t wildly amazed by Joseph Cotten and Valli’s turns in the lead roles, they do still make for entertaining watching. What’s most impressive is that they’re able to have a bit of fun in a film that’s a part of a somewhat stale, ridged genre.
I’ve never seen film-noir as funny as this. Of course, the main focus is the mystery of the plot, and the humour never cheapens that, but there are so many good laughs here and there, mainly to do with the excellent on-screen chemistry and rapport that many of the lead actors have, and that really added to making this a more entertaining film to watch.
Finally, let’s talk about the directing, which, to me, was the stand-out of the whole film. Carol Reed makes the post-war Vienna setting both full of life and still incredibly eerie. The dark lighting in a lot of the scenes (particularly the final sequence) really adds to the suspense of it all, whilst Reed’s use of the classic angled camera shot also makes the film even more visually, and subtly psychologically, exciting.
Overall, The Third Man is not only a massively intelligent and unpredictable mystery, but also a surprisingly entertaining film-noir that’s made even better by excellent camera work, and that’s why it gets a 7.8 from me.