Review: The Third Man

Megan is one of our LiveWire critics as well as a member of our BFI Film Academy group. As part of the course, the group watched a one off screening of The Third Man and below is Megan’s review of the film:

Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) is a young American writer arriving in post-war Vienna to visit an old friend who has promised him a job. Within 5 minutes of the film, we are given an immediate negative atmosphere as we discover that Holly’s old friend Harry Lime has mysteriously died. Director Carol Reed doesn’t hold back, immediately he hits us with a smack of curiosity as Holly goes on an unexpected journey to find Lime’s killer. Graham Greene’s story bursting with snappy dialogue and unexpected twists along with Robert Krasker’s Oscar winning camerawork provides a strong foundation to a stunningly original film.

64 years later, this film is still fresh regardless of its familiarity. This iconic stylised film noir is still considered a masterpiece today, ranking on the top 100 films ever made next to Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) and A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971). However, even though I see this film as a masterpiece, some see it as a monsterpiece; it’s up to you to decide whether the elaborate use of space and types of acting is irrelevant or applicable. However, one thing I will warn you about this film (if you haven’t already seen it) is the irritably catchy music, juxtaposing to the events of the film, to me it is unintentionally comic.

Taking into consideration that in contemporary society, if you ask someone (especially teens) what makes a film entertaining, the majority of people would say violence, blood, humour or action. Even today The Third Man successfully and ingeniously entertains an audience without sensational violence or explicit language. Even though the atmosphere and the narrative of the film may not appear appealing to some people (trust me when I say it didn’t appeal to me before I watched the film) the shadows of the film hovers over you, leaving you hooked and enticed as if you are in the film yourself, proving that it is truly an un-missable and unforgettable film.

Even though this film is a thriller and a mystery, if that is not your genre, then expect some romance too. As Holly Martins chases the killer of his old friend he seeks Anna’s (Allida Valli) help in the search. Anna is presented as a strong and independent woman, containing some characteristics of the femme fatale, reinforcing the idea of a classic film noir. However, you may think it is simple, a man in search of a killer, falling in love with a woman along the way, but things get complicated. It turns out that Anna is Harry Lime’s lover, and without revealing anymore to the plot, the big unexpected twist turns a simple love story in to a complicated one.

Carol Reed’s The Third Man at first didn’t appeal to me. It wasn’t a film I would pick out; however as the movie progressed I liked it more. I went from not interested, to interested, to wanting to watch it again. The combination of genres, along with the humour, use of shadows, light and the brilliant camera work all made this film a one of a kind. No matter how old The Third Man is or becomes, it is still going to influence cinema today and in the future as it truly is a stunning success.

PG Certificate

Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Megan Al-Ghailani (February ’13)