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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)



Reviews and Comments

One of Fritz Lang's last films, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is about a man who decides to frame himself for a murder and exonerate himself after his sentencing in order to make a political statement about the death penalty. Naturally it's more complicated than that, and it goes without saying that the exoneration part of the plan doesn't go as smoothly as it's supposed to. But there is more to this than what the premise suggests; the film surprised me, not just in plot twists but in the richness of some of the supporting characters and Lang's very subtle visual style. Noir fans should take note of this film.

That said, it seems only half realized. Many of the characters -- all the men, it seems -- are dry and apathetic, and long chunks of the film move forward purely mechanically, in stark contrast to the pieces that feel truly alive. Lang may have been saying something about how drab politics and modern society are, but the mistake is in letting the dullness leak into the film's general appeal.