Sunday, April 25, 2010

Canon Movie Review: The Third Man

There are times where I see something one way, and it seems like the entire world sees the same thing I'm looking at in a completely different way, and I have no idea if they are wrong or I'm wrong. For example, all of my friends praised the movie Little Miss Sunshine up and down, and when I saw it, I really did not see what all the fuss was all about. Well, The Third Man is another example of me not seeing things the same way as the general perception would suggest. Many people consider The Third Man one of the greatest movies of its era, one of the finest examples of the film-noir style, with excellent cinematography and a style years ahead of its time. To me, The Third Man was a boring film with bland characters that never got interesting until Orson Welles showed up on screen. A few notes from this film.

- The main character is an out-of work Western novel author named Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), who has been invited to work in post WWII Vienna for his long-time friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). When Martins arrives in Vienna, he discovers that Lime has been killed in a suspicious car accident. Because of his sudden death, Martins takes it upon himself, despite the protest of the British cops stationed in Vienna, to investigate the murder of his friend. Martins meets Lime's girlfriend, Anna, and a few of his business associates. Which each step he takes, Martins finds himself deeper and deeper into the mess that is the life of Harry Lime, who turns out not to be the man Martins thought he was.
- At first, the movie kind of crawls along at a snail's pace. Martins asks some of Lime's associates questions, but there isn't a whole lot happening. Mainly, Martins argues with the police chief Calloway and pontificates Harry's life with his girlfriend Anna, an actress at a local theater. The main point of this movie seems to be if Martins can find the "third man" carrying Harry off the street after he was struck by a car. He meets two of them, but a porter tells Martins and Anna that there was a third man carrying Harry off. Not surprisingly, the porter winds up murdered before he can reveal the third man's identity, and to make matters worse, the mob (including a fat, annoying German kid) accuses Martins of murder.
- Just when Martins is about to leave, he sees a man following him, and it turns out to be the man thought dead, Harry Lime. This is when the movie finally starts to get going, as Welles and Cotton have great chemistry in their few scenes together, which if you have seen Citizen Kane you would know, and finally Cotton finds an actor who can keep up with his skill.
- From there, the movie starts to take off, as both Anna and Martins must decide whether or not to help their friend or to betray him due to things that he has done. Since Anna was caught with an illegal passport, she is arrested, but Holly agrees to help catch Harry if she is released. This does not please Anna, who is still loyal to Harry even if he's not quite as loyal. Some might thought her decision to not take the train out of town was unwise, but I could see her not willing to be the ransom for having her boyfriend caught. Give her credit for standing by her man, I say.
- The score of the film is either charmingly different or takes away from the whole suspense mood, as it's mainly zither music. Personally I didn't have a problem with the score, but I could have done without all of the overhead and slanted camera shots. Some people loved it, but to me it seemed like the filmmakers were trying to be too cute with all of that stuff.

Overall, I may have been a bit harsh in my introduction, as The Third Man is at least a decent movie. But I just don't get why the movie gets so much praise and regard. The plot has holes as big as I am, the acting, with the exception of the three main characters, is hit or miss, and the producers seemed to sacrifice plot for a bunch of camera tricks that, while they may have been ahead of their time, didn't really do anything to make the movie that much better. It's not the finest example of the film-noir genre I've ever seen, as Strangers on a Train, Sunset Boulevard, and The Maltese Falcon blow this film out of the water. Overall, I'll give it a 5.3 out of 10, and if you think I've missed something or am horribly mistaken with my opinion, than feel free to let me know.

Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any future ideas for posts on The Canon Review, than let me know either by e-mail at or by leaving a comment. Here's the trailer to The Third Man.

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