Monday, September 20, 2010

Cornered (1945)

Exciting and well-constructed, this post-war noir tells of an Air Force pilot who, after the war, learns that his wife was executed by war criminals, and travels the globe seeking revenge. As it turns out, the mastermind of the plot is hiding out in Buenos Aires, so the stalwart, but ostensibly shell-shocked protagonist investigates the local aristocracy to find out who is hiding, or who may be, the man he's after. The idea that our lead character is confused due to his wartime trauma (in close-ups that remind one of Ted Striker in Airplane!) adds a lot of mileage to the proceedings, as the details, coincidences, and red herrings that pile up confuse and overwhelm him just as they do the viewer; it gives him a deep shade of character that distinguishes him from similarly driven, vengeful leads in the genre. The focus here, as in the Big Heat, is on revenge, not love or money, making the whole thing a very heated endeavor; I prefer the relentless, uncompromising pace here to the sprawling, patchwork structure of Casablanca, which shares similarities with this film. The side characters are an eclectic and interesting noir line-up, and provide ample support and intrigue throughout. The style is very expressionistic and bleak, implying a sort of post-war cynicism that gives the film haunting, unsettling overtones.

Highly Recommended to fans of revenge thrillers or noir. This is a near-forgotten gem that deserves more acclaim than many of the alleged classics of the genre I have encountered.

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