Ministry of Fear (1944)

Genres - Spy Film  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller, War Spy Film, Film Noir, Romantic Mystery  |   Release Date - Oct 16, 1944 (USA)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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An innocent man is drawn into a web of espionage when he unwittingly comes into possession of a crucial piece of microfilm in this shadowy, ominous film noir. Fritz Lang's adaptation of Graham Greene's novel is filled with unusual touches, beginning with the fact that protagonist Stephen Neale (Ray Milland) has just been released from a mental asylum. To celebrate his return to the real world, he visits a local carnival, only to accidentally receive a "prize" meant for a Nazi agent. When he discovers the error, he turns for help to a detective, whose investigations only make the matter more complicated. Neale soon winds up on the run from both the Nazis and the police, who mistakenly believe him guilty of murder. Lang's famous expressionistic style is somewhat muted here, but Henry Sharp's crisp black-and-white cinematography sets a suitably unsettling mood, and the twists and double-crosses of Greene's story unfold at an appropriately quick pace. While it does not reach the same level of timeless classic as Carol Reed's adaptation of Greene's The Third Man four years later, Ministry of Fear stands as a well-made, thoroughly gripping and intelligent example of film noir.

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Keywords

agent [representative], bomb, carnival, craziness, detective, espionage, fear, frame-up, investigator, killing, maniac, mental-institution, mind-games, Nazism, questioning [police interrogation], victim, war, asylum [mental hospital], canning, director, driver, man, police, room, Scotland-Yard, seance, show, train [locomotive], training