Friday, August 12, 2011

Berlin Express

In Paris just following the end of World War II, as a German doctor discusses his Berlin peace plan at a conference, some kids in a park near the Eiffel Tower take home a pigeon that has been shot down. Inside the shell extracted from the pigeon, they find a message in German which is reported to authorities. We learn that the message refers to a Nazi attack on an express train from Paris to Berlin where the target is the German doctor. When the bomb goes off and the doctor is killed, the only witnesses are his sultry European secretary, an American, a Brit, a Frenchmen, and a Russian, all of whom are untrusting of each other. Now the group is thrust into political intrigue which becomes even more dangerous when it is realized that the man killed was really a decoy and the doctor's life is in even more imminent danger. "Berlin Express" was one of the first movies filmed in postwar Europe and contains stark and remarkable footage of the dilapidated, bombed out cities of Frankfurt and Berlin. Director Jacques Tourneur keeps a steady hand on the camera and the movie itself is harsh containing several violently brutal scenes. There is a major flaw with the movie which is its narration that plays largely throughout the film. I think the idea was to give the film a more realist feel but the result was to make a lot of the movie play like a "News of the World" reel. Also Robert Ryan isn't very effective at all as a leading man. "Berlin Express" is a well made political thriller and with a few changes in the script, it could have been a great one.