In the post-WWII era, there were a lot of stories to be told on the big screen. And, as seen here, they didn’t all have to revolve around the war itself. Some battles were fought on unexpected fronts, outside the context of bullets and bunker-busters.
A man commissioned to investigate war crimes is in pursuit of an escaped Nazi, and the search leads him to the small town of Harper, where the man in question is working as a professor and preparing to marry the daughter of a prominent liberal judge. His best chance of staying hidden, he figures, is by staying in plain sight. As his worlds begin to collide, the truth threatens to rear its ugly head and upend his new life by exposing his old one.
This is considered by many to be a lower-level work for director Orson Welles, but with a script full of intrigue, as well as his visual flair and star quality, it is still a very solid piece of noir thriller filmmaking. Welles employs his long takes, harsh contrast of lighting and shadow and smooth camera movements to achieve his goal and the result is enjoyable. By exploring the themes of discovering of the true self and repeated use of ticking clock imagery, perhaps the troubled Welles was trying to hint that he felt that he was always on the clock. A man at once running towards and fleeing from what he was destined to be, with time always running short.