Monday, 13 January 2014

The Informer (1935)

This was screened at the break of dawn on BBC2 Saturday and, as I can barely recall it from my childhood,  I hit the sky+ for it and settled down to watch it today. 


Well yeah, sure it's dated now and creaks like an old barn door in a gale, and yes it could be argued that the Americanised sentimental notion of Ireland and the struggles of the IRA was born here in this very film, but there's still much to enjoy in John Ford's The Informer, chiefly Victor McLaglen's powerhouse Oscar winning turn. 

OK, he overacts (he always did) and yes his accent travels back and forth across the Irish sea from his native Britain to his character's Ireland (but he's by no means the worst culprit here and accuracy was never that big a concern during this era of film making) but so what? He's the absolute embodiment of the character of Gypo Nolan, a man who the term 'big lug' could have been created for, and as such he convinces you in every scene. Full of alcohol fuelled swagger and Blarney, with fists firmly bunched waiting at all times, you're unable to take your eyes off him throughout the 85 minute duration. 

Gypo Nolan will seal his fate when he trades in his on the run friend for just £20 from the British authorities which he pipe dreams will buy his passage to America with the girl he loves; a new life far away from foggy Dublin (captured on a sound stage by Ford). It's a simple story, an age old one of betrayal, redemption and greed that feels at once instantly iconic - which means it still feels contemporary even if the film itself feels dated.

The final moments, when Gypo, fatally wounded but with the constitution of an ox, descends upon the magnificently lit church exterior, seeking forgiveness rather than sanctuary, is still a scene one can feel the repercussions of to this day certainly in the Catholic idolatry imagery of Scorsese.

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