Starring: Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond
Director: Fritz Lang
Running Time: 87 mins
Ministry Of Fear is an American film about a man, recently released from a mental asylum, who accidentally finds himself at the centre of a conflict of spies and Nazis after receiving a mysterious item.
I wasn’t a big fan of Ministry Of Fear. A film that has all the ingredients of a cagey, unsettling WW2-era thriller, bolstered by direction from the legendary Fritz Lang and a charismatic lead turn from Ray Milland, Ministry Of Fear just never seems to get off the mark, building up to crescendos that are far more underwhelming when they eventually come along.
I’ll admit that, despite his acclaim through history, I’ve never been entirely enamoured by Fritz Lang’s films. His brand of slow pacing and unsettling tension isn’t as gripping as the likes of Alfred Hitchcock or David Lean, although Lang’s films do often deliver visually captivating thrills and spills on every occasion.
Ministry Of Fear is no different, and if there’s one thing that really stands out about this movie, it’s the way it looks. With the odd Dutch angle – a staple of 1940s thrillers – and an almost constant use of murky, ominous shadows, there’s no denying exactly what Lang is trying to achieve with Ministry Of Fear, and he certainly manages to create a sense of unease on the surface.
Beyond that, however, this film is never a particularly thrilling watch. It’s fine as a simple crime mystery, but Ministry Of Fear is playing with a lot more than generic thriller tropes. With psychological instability surrounding our main character, and the context of the Second World War pervading throughout, there’s more to this film than first meets the eye, but it never capitalises on those additional themes and ideas.
As a result, Ministry Of Fear struggled to captivate me at any point. Again, it’s not a tedious watch, and there are a few moments of good tension, as well as some intriguing themes that run through the film. However, it can’t hold a candle to the greatest thrillers of the 1940s, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.3 overall.