“You ought to be kept in a cage.”
WWII has ended, and a group of GIs are loose in Washington D.C. One evening, the GIs visit a bar, and there they meet civilian, Joseph Samuels and his girlfriend. One of the soldiers, a young married man named Mitchell is despondent over his relationship with his wife. Samuels and his girlfriend take Mitchell out for a meal, but the evening ends in murder with Mitchell as a suspect.
Police Captain Finlay (Robert Young) is investigating the case. He wants to question prime suspect Mitchell, but no one knows where he is. So Finlay questions the men who were with Samuels that night. This includes the very domineering Montgomery (Robert Ryan). Sgt Keeley (Robert Mitchum) maintains that Mitchell couldn’t hurt a fly, but the evidence seems to point to Mitchell’s guilt.
Crossfire is an excellent entry in the film noir genre. It examines the dilemma of the returning GIs who sometimes resented that the world had carried on without them, and hardly welcomed them home. This is most evident in Montgomery’s attitude towards Samuels. He’s certain that Samuels is one of those men who’ve maintained a cushy lifestyle while others are off fighting. Crossfire examines anti-Semitism is a very clever way, but the film was based on a book about the murder of a gay man–not a Jewish man. No doubt the murder of a Jewish man was more appropriate for the time. Robert Mitchum fans should delight in his role as Kelley. In his desire to protect his men, Keeley squares off against Captain Finlay, but there’s a mutual respect between the two men. Mitchum plays Keeley with his usual cool, laconic style, and Robert Young plays Finlay with a calm, patient demeanour. Montgomery (Robert Ryan) is a very well developed character, and Ryan really steals the film. Montogomery is crafty, bombastic, and unpleasant, and his speech is full of sly inferences. Montgomery may fool many people, but he certainly doesn’t fool Keeley.
Gloria Grahame’s supporting role of Ginny, the dance hall girl is well worth catching. She’s jaded, prickly, and resentful. She’s another character hardened by the war, and she’s in complete contrast to Mitchell’s clean, healthy and pure wife. Film noir fans will enjoy Crossfire. It’s an entertaining, tight drama.