Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Brute Force

Following the end of World War II, returned soldiers were trying to escape the uncomfortable nature of everyday life. One such escape was to the movies. But they weren't seeing the love story pictures their sweethearts wanted to see. They wanted to see something with more grit. Something like a film noir.

It makes sense once you think of it. They're weren't ready to see a saccharine-drenched picture that Hollywood often cranks out. (That was probably why the Frank Capra-helmed It's a Wonderful Life didn't have great returns.) They had gotten accustomed to a world of violence and death, so they wanted a movie that feature that.

One such film is Jules Dassin's Brute Force. Depicting a life behind bars, the film chronicles the differing perspectives between the inmates and the guards. However Dassin depicts the guards as the morally corrupt, especially Capt. Munsey (Hume Cronyn). (Many later noirs would go into the territory of power corrupting absolutely.)

The film stars Burt Lancaster (in only his second film role!) as Joe Collins, a prisoner who only wants to get out of jail. He has good reason to; the health of his wife Ruth (Ann Blyth) is declining and he wants to be with her. The silent intensity that Joe displays is precisely why I love Lancaster in the first place.

Brute Force is very good though it feels like it's lacking...something. What it is, I have no idea. (Might become evident on a re-watch.) Still, Dassin's direction, Lancaster's charisma and William Daniels' cinematography kept me intrigued.

My Rating: ****1/2

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