A pickpocket unwittingly lifts a message destined for enemy agents and becomes a target for a Communist spy ring.A pickpocket unwittingly lifts a message destined for enemy agents and becomes a target for a Communist spy ring.A pickpocket unwittingly lifts a message destined for enemy agents and becomes a target for a Communist spy ring.
The film starts with Peters on a subway car being watched by federal agents. They know she is a link in a long espionage chain. Unknown to everyone is the wild card in the equation--a small-time pickpocket (Widmark) is also on the train and he manages to steal the secrets that Peters is carrying. Widmark thinks it's just another purse he's ransacked--only later does he realize the seriousness of what he's stolen. Now it's Widmark on his own--with Commies and the FBI hot on his trail.
Widmark and the rest are exceptional and the film is gripping from start to finish. Although she didn't get top billing, a special mention should be made of Thelma Ritter. This supporting actress had perhaps the performance of her lifetime as a stool pigeon. Seldom was she given this much of a chance to act and I was impressed by her ability to play a broken down and sad old lady.
As far as the script and directing go, they are very good--but with one small exception. At first, I loved the way Widmark and Peters interacted. It's one of the few times on film you'll see a woman punched square in the mouth! Now THAT'S tough. Later, inexplicably, they become amazingly close--too close to be believable. Still, with so much great drama and such an effective Noir-like film, this can be overlooked. See this film.
- Jan 2, 2009