Ministry of Fear - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Ministry of Fear Reviews

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½ September 19, 2016
Ministry of Fear is a film about a man who, upon being released from an asylum, accidentally gets tangled up in a dangerous web of spies. The inciting incident comes early in the film, and it is shockingly similar to the case of mistaken identity in North By Northwest. Those scenes early on were strange almost as if they took place in some kind of altered reality. It was so odd that I thought the twist of the film was going to be that he was still insane, but it turns out he's just stepped into a world that he does not understand. Therefore, it probably makes sense for the scenes to feel a little off to the viewer as well. The story is not as interesting as most Fritz Lang films I've seen, and I'll admit that I lost interest at least once while watching. The far-fetched deus ex machina moment that solves almost everything towards the end was just too silly for me to accept.

However, I still admire the quality of the film-making. Lang has a particular style that is superb and elevates even a lesser film like this one. Plus, despite all the flaws in the film, I was intrigued enough to keep watching to find out exactly how it would end. Ray Milland was a little bland in the lead role, I wish he had displayed more emotion because his trials were pretty severe. Finally, I should mention that it felt extremely awkward to see Marjorie Reynolds in such a serious role and faking an accent, because I'm so familiar with her from Holiday Inn. There's a lot that I struggled to enjoy in Ministry of Fear, but the film still looked great and had enough mystery to hold my attention for the relatively short run-time. It's not a movie I will recommend, because Lang has better films in his repertoire, but I also wouldn't discourage people from giving it a chance.
April 17, 2016
good film noir from german master fritz lang.
September 12, 2015
While benefiting from Fritz Lang's Sturm und Drang-style, Ministry of Fear suffers from a predictable climax and a mediocre Marjorie Reynolds.
August 27, 2015
This film noir, one more by Fritz Lang, about a Nazi conspiracy in London could be naive for our times, but is well constructed and gives you only little cues about the end.
May 16, 2015
Lovers of film noir rejoice because (along with William Castle) one of the masters of darkness, Fritz Lang has a "new" film on DVD. This film noir is from the early days of the celebrated genre (1944). Also, it is a Nazi-spy film made during the war, which lends a irreplaceable authenticity to it. It has all the signatures of film noir and makes a great example for study. Watch the film for it's dark atmosphere, art deco production, and classic plot devices (femme fatales, etc.) This film was directed by Lang not long after his arrival in the U.S. (he fled Nazi Germany after Hitler wanted to make him head director of the Third Reich's film industry). Lang brings his definitive German Expressionist long shots, high shadows, and distorted figures to the film, which enhances the film and would set precedents for future film noirs in the late 1940s and 1950s.
March 19, 2015
Carl Esmond and Marjorie Reynolds as siblings; Hilfe meand hekp in German.
One of Milland's best along with Lost Weekend and The Big Clock.
Alan, Napier, Hillary Brooke. Dan Duryea as the heavy.
½ March 13, 2015
The movie starts of slow but by the climax it catches it's stride.
½ January 26, 2015
Ministry of Fear never really gets under your skin. The atmosphere of fear and war-time never feels real or scary.
January 23, 2015
Groundbreaking thriller. I loved it despite its being a little dated.
November 5, 2014
Despite its wartime premise and "Nazis-running-amok" cautions, "Ministry of Fear" is surprisingly without propaganda and crowd-pleasing silliness. It is a tight and efficient noir that works well as both a mood piece and a spy thriller. Directed by legendary filmmaker Fritz Lang, who is much better known for "The Woman in the Window" or "M", the film is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it oddity that surely will come out of the shadows after years of hiding.
When we first meet Stephen Neale (Ray Milland), he is being released from a London prison asylum. We aren't immediately told why he's there in the first place (and to tell you would ruin half of the film's gutsy paranoia), but his vulnerability makes him even more of an unlikely heroic leading character.
"I long to be among people," Stephen confesses to his doctor; his first stop is a village fête hosted by the Mothers of Free Nations charity. One of the games involves guessing the correct weight of a cake in order to win it; in a cryptic manner, a palm reader tells him a specific weight, and in return, he gets the prize.
But after a strange run-in with an armed man, it's revealed that the psychic was in fact part of a Nazi spy ring and Stephen inadvertently said a key code. Now on the run, he teams up with Carla (Marjorie Reynolds), the head of Mothers of Free Nations who is just as unaware of the ring as Stephen.
Covered with black ink and earthy grays, "Ministry of Fear" projects a sort of danger in nearly every direction it goes in. The alleyways are murkier, the nighttime streets are wetter, and buildings seem to promise menace inside. In a spectacularly shot sequence, Stephen attends a seance. Before the lights go out, we are informed that a number of deadly men are surrounding him. Lang, in a plight of expressionism, douses the entire room in a jet black, save for the glowing light that bounces off every attendees face. The scene is erupted by several gun shots and a dead man on the ground.
Throughout the film, Lang creates an abundance of these rubber band tight sequences, all of which are usually heightened by their cinematography. In a sense, Lang is like Hitchcock. He understands what the audience wants, but he's also in-touch with what he wants. "Ministry of Fear" has a lethal combination of virtuosity and popcorn suspense; not a second feels false.
The climax is someone of a letdown in comparison to the rest of the film, however: the shootout, featuring Nazi spies against Milland and Reynolds, feels quick and uneventful. Even worse, the closing shot is of the leading couple riding in a car, smiling, with the coastline in the background.
It's a dim and predictable conclusion to a film of such intelligent means, but it doesn't undermine the earlier atmosphere or the clinging paranoia the film sets so easily. "Ministry of Fear" has a dated premise, yet it somehow feels relevant and new, in the same way "All the President's Men" opened our eyes or how "Three Days of the Condor" renewed the wrong-man cliché. Lang has made better films, but this one is one of nearly effortless beauty and thrills.
February 18, 2014
Atmospheric London-set WW II spy thriller. The tension could have been ratcheted a little higher. Likeable leads. Very similar to Fritz Lang's 1941 effort 'Man Hunt', but not quite as good.
½ December 29, 2013
As with every Fritz Lang film, it's artfully shot and unbelievably ahead of its time.
October 12, 2013
From an asylum (for a mercy killing, from/of an African plantation!) to a carnival (operated by the "Mothers of the Free Nations"!) to a seance to a Nazi conspiracy. Fritz Lang connects the dots! In the dark and through a closed door!
½ August 4, 2013
Fritz Lang does a decent Hitchcock, but still with plenty of that good 'ol German Impressionism! First half drips with Paranoia, dread and creep! (watched on Criterion Bluray)
Super Reviewer
July 23, 2013
I don't really care that the story is ridiculous, Lang directed the film beautifully (Is there any other director who used contrasting shadow and light so well?) and I like that its a WWII propaganda film, that doesn't really feel like a propaganda film . . . probably because the "heroes" and "villains" are less clearly defined than most stuff from that era.
½ May 20, 2013
3.5: Fritz Lang has a very recognizable visual style and this is a perfect example of him on form. It is kind of disguised as a propaganda picture, but I have to say it easily could have been made Hitchcock. Lang has his own take on the situation, but the parallels between this story and Hitchcock's standard narrative are numerous. It's basically a WWII propaganda/Lang/Hitchcock/noir/detective/thriller/mystery/romance mash-up that works on just about every level.
March 19, 2013
Seen by most as a lesser work, Fritz Lang's Ministry of Fear, in many ways, gives Alfred Hitchcock's paranoiac thrillers a run for their money. The story of a man caught up in a Nazi conspiracy, the film keeps you guessing and leaves a trail of questions all the way up until the end. Despite the film containing too many plot elements and sometimes a mix of tones, I found myself compelled by it, particularly in the second and third acts. The film takes a little bit of time to get going, but after seeing it all the way through, you find yourself re-evaluating the first half of the film. The film features a great performance from Ray Milland, who is one of my favorite actors of the era. His noir-ish touch on the film is just what it is needed for us to get in on this conspiracy. The other actors in the film do good work too and Lang's visual storytelling is on fine display. The film may not garner the amount of attention that some of Lang's other work does, but it's certainly not to be overlooked.
January 6, 2013
Fine Ftitz Lang directed adaptation of the Grahame Greene WWII spy novel. It's a far cry from the brilliant "The Third Man," which Greene adapted himself, but "Ministry of Fear" is a solid film noir and a rather nice bridge between German expressionism (for with Lang was a master) and American film noir, which incorporated many elements of German expressionism. While Lang never achieved the artistic heights he reached in pre-WWII Germany, having directed classics such as "Metropolis" and "M," this film is one of his better American films. Before he fled Germany, Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels actually offered Lang the job of head of the German Cinema Institute, so it's always interesting to see his anti-Nazi films like this, the same as other German expatriates Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann. But back to the film at hand, it's an intriguing and well crafted mystery, filled with quite a few nice touches by Lang, but it lacks depth when compared to other Grahame Green adaptations like "The Third Man" or "The Fallen Idol."
July 27, 2012
On the eve of World War II, Ministry of Fear appeared as a great crime picture concentrating on a very hot topic at the time, namely the devious Nazi schemes and plots build up all around Europe. Its decent and somehow dizzying storyline places this movie in the great film noir category right on spot. Its gloomy aura and very climatic atmosphere can be felt throughout the whole time. The main quality of this picture comes from the side of its fantastic cinematography. Every scene is shot perfectly, with the classic low-key white-and-black visual style. Some of the images are simply astounding: a gripping scene on the train with a seemingly blind man, explosive suitcase, bombing near the railroad tracks, etc. But the most stunning one for me was that of a group mind-reading session. Through its play on colors, light and visual sensations it brings a sort of nightmare-ish mood to the movie. Apart from being an agitating thriller Ministry of Fear is also a proper take on the situation in Europe during the War. Nazi scams were omnipresent and every person could have been involved, no matter what nationality he or she was. That's definitely the point that makes it feel more realistic and dramatic at once. Also, one of Ray Milland most believable performances.
July 2, 2012
Ministry of Fear is one of the weakest Fritz Lang noirs and no wonder that it has gotten so little attention. The only highlight of the film is that it directly involves the Nazis, but still the film manages to have the least social relevance, as compared to METROPOLIS and M. The Nazi in the film is merely the name of an enemy, and the film offers no reflection of why it is so.
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