This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Peter Labuza’s review published on Letterboxd :
This review may contain spoilers.
I was looking over Kazan's filmography and am still embarrassed that I've only seen two, this and PANIC IN THE STREETS, which I kind of prefer. It's kind of odd how poorly the allegory of this film re: Kazan's own history. The villains in the story are so clearly villains as they are going around MURDERING PEOPLE, so Kazan is kind of painting his own predicament a little too easy in way too many ways, and so I'm not sure how he really thought this could stand as an apologia.
That said, the film works about 90 times better when it is taken as a narrative and a film—like Matt Seitz said about BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, this is one of the great narratives of a man truly discovering who he is under all the lies that inform his surface, and its a great one at that.
Kazan is best as a director of faces—the different faces that populate the docks are filled with dirt, and jagged lines, and like the best of film noir, they have an expressionist look to them (as compared to the almost Saintly pure round face of Eva Marie Saint). He is also great at using wide frame compositions (sorry Jeff Wells, this has to be a 1.85 film and I can't imagine it looking good in 1.66). He really uses the space well and filling his frames with a lot of detail and deep focus cinematography to great a wholly lived in world (the fires in the trash cans outside the church is one of my favorite details).
The contender speech was even better than I remembered, especially given the tension that if Terry doesn't take the patsy job, he's going to the garage where he's essentially going to be "fixed," while also working as high tragedy about these two brothers who have fallen so much from what they could have been. The way that scene works, with that close-up reveal on the taxi driver, is haunting.
I also have to shout out one fantastic sequence—after Terry testifies, we see a short scene for an anonymous figure turns off the television and tells his butler he won't take any calls from Lee J. Cobb. We never learn who this figure is, but it's kind of the awesome moment where you realize the corruption always goes higher.
Brando is pretty good, I guess.