The year is 1922 and there is conflict between the Irish that want their independence (Sinn Fein) and those loyal to Britain. Gypo Nolan (Victor McLagen) is a big, dopey, brute that used to operate with Sinn Fein’s Irish rebels but he was expelled when unable to kill an innocent man. Desperate for money, he dimes out a Sinn Fein member wanted for murder and is awarded the bounty. People are looking for him now.
You know the rest of the story. You’ve seen this plot before. Betrayal, action, romance, revenge, money, etc. What makes “The Informer” different is that this film is made in 1935 before such thematic cliches and in many ways, this John Ford movie still feels like it could hold its own today.
Shot in 1930’s black and white this film is thick with atmosphere. There is a foggy, ethereal darkness to this movie that gives each scene a somber, intimate thickness.
The street scenes in “The Informer” reminded me in some ways of the 1993 Daniel Day Lewis film “In The Name of The Father” In both films, suspicious British troops patrol the streets looking for Irish rebels, while the rebels move about uncover and do some patrolling of their own. Fascinating how things repeat themselves not just in cinema but historically as well. Life imitates art. The setting of The Informer, like In The Name of The Father, is a reflection of Ireland's never ending cycle tense times.
Gypo Nolan is played by Victor McLagen. McLagen is tremendous as the former Irish rebel enforcer. He has been discharged from rebellious Sinn Fein and desperate for money. Out of love and desperation he reluctantly turns against a man who is a member of the rebels. It isn’t really all that cut and dry, see the film and you’ll know what I mean, but I have to think this is one of the first films to take on such heavy topics that are so common place in cinema today.
McLagen is just terrific. His Gypo Nolan is big, a little slow mentally, and has both a compassionate and violent side. I don't ever recall such a huge actor. His giant hands and torso dominate every scene. His huge, heavy face is at times so endearing and disturbing. If I had to pick a favorite 30’s movies character, it might be Gypo. Ever read Of Mice and Men? If so, remember the giant character Lenny? They are very similar. Lenny would’ve pat Gypo on the back all right. Heck of a character.
The dialog wasn’t bad at all either. I was expecting too much jargon from that period but to my surprise most of the lines are timeless.
If old films are not your thing, you might not be too into this movie. That said, The Informer doesn’t have all the camp found in typical ‘old’ movies. In some ways this flick still feels unique. Most everything in this film you have seen before, but keep in mind this was one of the first films to do it.
Check it out this John Ford Film
Another Post By TurtleDog
Like Matt Damon. He plays an informer too in this ironic whistleblower film where he dimes out a major US corporation to the FBI. I wrote a review of this film where a whistle blower rattles ADM.