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CAROL REED DIRECTS REX HARRISON IN 'NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH'

year: 1940 Rating: ***
By the time we're on that title train to the title location, the dialogue-driven European WW2 espionage is pretty much done, and the Germans think our leading man Rex Harrison, as Dickie Randall a.k.a. Gus Bennett, is a Nazi, a British agent or a Nazi for the British or a Brit for their their own cause being he's so charmingly sneaky, and that makes for an effective performance since in any thriller genre, a touch of mystery is needed to keep things fresh, and the subtle chase, following said character, on a windswept pace, leads to more of an action/adventure at the end, though a bit too little, too late.

As for direction, Carol Reed moves his chess pieces around nicely, including lovely first-billed Margaret Lockwood, who has to trust this dashing, talky mystery man to help her and her scientist father escape from the world-dominating villains, after she'd fallen pathetically hard for the true Nazi spy in extra-polite charmer Paul Henreid, and there's more than a touch of dark humor being that NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH was made on hte verge of war, this a journey on the edge that never goes full-out where it needs to be. Yet had the same plot and, for the time, decent special effects occurred, say, in 1946, this might have been a lot stronger for the characters (including the cricket-loving duo who stole the Hitchcock's connected A LADY VANISHES but are overused here) and audience alike. But what's there to experience is a decent visual page-turner; although it goes in one ear and out the other... The best thing about this TRAIN is the Criterion DVD cover, perhaps the best ever, ever, in their series consisting of some of the best artwork ever, ever created for collectors of vintage motion pictures. What's unfortunate are the grainy cuts to actual war planes, not fitting the actual film's aesthetic; however, the use of model buildings and factories looks fantastic.
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