I Confess Review

A seal of confession prevents a priest from clearing his name from a ruthless crime. It is not enough that Father Michael William Logan (Montgomery Cliff) is a man of God. Anyone can be a suspect in an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Acting on the sacraments and everything he holds truthful in his heart gets Logan into hot water and a chase that could end his life or lock him up behind bars. It is the excitement of I Confess that rings through as the leading draw. Not an actor here or the name behind the camera, but because the fundamental idea of a just and saintly man on the run for a crime he did not commit and cannot admit his innocence to is fascinating.

Hitchcock adapts the misery of holding the truth with great pride in his leading man and pain in its narrative. It toys with the innocence of a man in a truthful position. He holds an unspoken power over those that confess to him, and that role is flipped when a murderer confesses and soon passes the blame to the priest he confides in. I Confess plays with that effectively enough. Hitchcock drags out more than a few scenes of genuine shock and panic. The debilitations of a truthful man holding faith in his vow of silence. Protecting a criminal not out of intent but an honour to a higher deity is a strong topic to pick apart. Hitchcock is not quite up to the challenge.

That is not to knock the Master of Suspense. His strengths lie elsewhere. When he hopes to comment on religion and the persecution of a man committed to his faith, Hitchcock loses his way. That fall is not because of blasphemy or lack of understanding, but because of the characters that surround Logan and their intentions. Cliff’s performance is solid. The chirpy priest who never quite predicts anything is wrong until it is a tad too late, it is a role that Cliff plays out relatively confidently. Alongside the cold exterior of Karl Malden is a decent pairing that sees I Confess through the rough patches. The humdrum police enquiries, the slow build of supporting characters that give their brief and boring thoughts on the man at the heart of this story being involved with such a crime. On and on it churns, and for far too long.

Despite all the party game antics that provide light moments to this Hitchcock thriller, I Confess struggles at times to maintain its pace and keep its frankness and topical discussion afloat. Characters talk of Logan and the ridiculousness of it often, and it tires out I Confess when Logan is present on-screen and shown to be on the exact opposite side of these supporting characters’ statements. It is the back-and-forth Hitchcock relies on there and it never takes flight as it should. Relaying the frights and delights of the thriller genre but embedding it well within a character-led drama should be a knockout for Hitchcock. Instead, it is a dithering piece that never utilises the talented cast at hand as well as it should, despite some formidable scenes from Cliff as the woe-stricken priest.

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