The Third Man
**** GM
Starring: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard


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This is a really cool film.

It took me a long time to be able to watch and appreciate older movies. As a kid, I just liked goofball comedies like "The Jerk" and "Three Amigos," graduating to dumb action movies once I saw "Die Hard" and wondered 'are all action movies like this?' Turned out, they're not. They just try really hard to be. There was always something about older movies that I found hard to watch for far too long a time - perhaps I always expected them to be cheesy and lame, or maybe it was something about the film quality. I've managed to outgrow that now, and it gives me hope that the kids that flock to "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" might someday be able to outgrow that crap, too.

All that autobiographical nonsense aside, "The Third Man" is apparently considered one of the best film noirs of all time, and I can definitely see why. It takes what could be an iffy story of a down-on-his-luck guy traveling abroad and suddenly finding himself in the middle of a murder mystery and puts enough twists and spins on things to make it pretty unique. Holly Martins is a writer of old Western novels that's hurting for money, when his old friend Harry Lime calls him up from post-war Vienna and tells him he's got a job for him. Trouble is, when Martins arrives, he finds out Lime's been hit by a truck and killed. After getting drunk and investigating a little further, a snappy British cop named Calloway tells him that his friend was mixed up in some pretty unsavory shenanigans, which Martins doesn't believe for a second. The more he snoops around, the more he finds the circumstances around his friend's death to be fishy, and the more he starts to fall for Anna Schmidt, the gal what loved Ol' Harry. Despite the protests of everyone he meets, he keeps digging until he uncovers some stuff he really didn't want to find.

What makes this classic noir more compelling is that Martins is not a hard-boiled, cynical guy that's paranoid enough to try and look for all the angles - he's a guy that writes classic Western stories, where justice always wins out and the idealism always comes through in the end, so his investigation is kinda sloppy and he's way too free with his information when talking to shady characters, and he's always damn sure he's right about things, until he's shown hard evidence to the contrary. When a straightforward 'good guy' is dropped into a murky town with a hundred shades of gray, things aren't gonna work out swimmingly, and chances are the guy's gonna get pretty screwed up along the way when everything he thinks to be right gets rattled around.

There are a lot of great lines in this film, too, such as Calloway getting annoyed enough at Martins' nosing around to tell him he was 'born to be murdered.' Quite a few good ones like that in here. But the kicker is the ending - the last shot of this film is perfectly done, and it's a great final kick in the gut to the guy that's just been trying to do the right thing and not knowing what the hell that might be. See this film.

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