It once was praised as a sharply realistic study of American idealism (in the person of pulp novelist Joseph Cotten) crushed by European cynicism (embodied by war profiteer Orson Welles), but today it's the extravagant falsity that entertains—from Welles's "cuckoo clock" speech to the crazy camera angles and madly expressionist lighting chosen by director Carol Reed. It isn't easy when you're up against the likes of Reed, writer Graham Greene, and producer David O. Selznick, but Welles still manages to dominate this 1949 film, both as an actor and as a stylistic influence. What's missing is the Welles content. With Trevor Howard, Alida Valli, and Bernard Lee.
By Dave Kehr