The Informer (1935) starring Victor McLaglen, Heather Angel, Preston Foster, Margot Grahame, Wallace Ford, Una O'Connor, J.M. Kerrigan, Joe Sawyer directed by John Ford Movie Review

The Informer (1935)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Victor McLaglen in The Informer (1935)

Judas of Dublin

After being dumped out of the IRA Gypo Nolan (Victor McLaglen - Laughing at Life) not only feels betrayed but he is also down on his luck and struggling. Out of reluctant desperation he goes to the Black and Tan to inform on former colleague Frankie McPhillip (Wallace Ford) and in doing so collect a £20 reward. But within minutes of doing so Gypo starts to feel guilty over what he has done and then the paranoia sinks in as he becomes worried that his former colleagues will discover that he was the informer.

Back at the 1936 Academy Awards John Ford's "The Informer" scooped four of the six awards it was nominated for giving Ford the first of four Oscars he won for directing. It is easy to see why as "The Informer" is a stylish piece of movie making with every single scene looking like it has been crafted, chiselled at till everything was just right. Now for some this is great, the dominating use of light and shade set against a heavily fogged Dublin is visually striking but for me it is too much. Everything about it is too deliberate, too manufactured such as a scene where Gypo is pulled in front of the IRA leaders and they all turn to look at him one by one slowly and deliberately. That is the theme throughout especially as the first half of the movie is almost silent and so we have lots of slow deliberate movements and lingering camera shots.

Margot Grahame in The Informer (1935)

"The Informer" also saw Victor McLaglen win his only Oscar for his lead role as Gypo Nolan a simple man, not dumb but not clever enough to think ahead and who enjoys a drink. Now McLaglen certainly handles himself well in a lead role and he has one of those lived in faces which allows him to emote feelings without the need for words. But in truth I don't think this is McLaglen's finest performance but one which due to the ponderous and deliberate camera work seems much more than it is.

In the end the thing about "The Informer" which impresses me the most is the simple storyline, a Judas storyline which takes us on a journey of guilt to relief and stupidity. It's not in the least bit complex and in truth if it wasn't for the purposefully artistic styling "The Informer" would only be as half as long. But it is a well worked storyline with plenty of rise and fall.

What this all boils down to is that it easy to see why "The Informer" is highly regarded especially amongst John Ford fans as it is heavy in style. But for me the styling is too heavy and deliberate to the point of distracting from the story.