Confidential Agent (1945)
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Critic Reviews for Confidential Agent
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Audience Reviews for Confidential Agent
Mixed strong and weak points but worth seeing over all Confidential Agent is a rather neglected film: it seems to be listed in very few film reference books, presumably because it was out of circulation for a long time. The story, from a book by Graham Greene, concerns a Spanish pianist turned anti-Fascist soldier in the Spanish Civil War (Charles Boyer) who comes to England on a secret mission to buy up a huge supply of coal with the dual purpose of using it to support the Republican side and denying it to Franco's forces; he's assisted by a spoiled rich girl he runs into (Lauren Bacall) who also falls in love with him. It's easy to see what Warner's was hoping for from this film: by co-starring a solidly established male romantic lead (Boyer) with the hot new female sex symbol (Bacall, fresh from her sensation-making role with Bogart in The Big Sleep the previous year) in a patriotically anti-Fascist story while the war was still in progress, the studio might seem to have had all the bases covered. But in fact, the film is a very mixed bag. On the negative side, Boyer struggles manfully with his role but never seems to really get inside his character. Bacall seems to be trying to portray a femme fatale of the sexy but ice-cold variety, but her performance (which the critics generally panned) comes off as just being wooden. And there's a complete lack of real chemistry between the two. The film also has a strained Hollywood happy ending, which seems tacked on. But there are some virtues to set against this. The script is generally intelligent, and the complicated plot consistently clear. Several of the minor performances are memorable, especially Ian Wolfe and Dan Seymour as two quite different but equally amusing eccentrics, Peter Lorre is fine as his usual sniveling villain and Katina Paxou is excellent as the so-evil-she's-insane murderess. The best thing about the film, though, is the starkly noirish photography by great cinematographer James Wong Howe: those seriously interested in the art of cinema lighting will find much to admire. All in all, not a classic, but worth seeing for its good points. The Warner's 2011 standard DVD is a decent transfer of an acceptable but not pristine print.
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