The Informer stars Victor McLaglen as Gypo Nolan, an Irish rebel who sells out his friend for the reward money, intending to take his girlfriend Katie (Margot Grahame) to a better life in America. However, when the attempted attempt leads to his friend being shot, Gypo's guilt overtakes him on a lengthy night where he drinks himself stupid then tries to extricate himself from the mess he's got himself in to. The cast also includes Una O'Connor and Heather Angel as the victim's mother and sister, along with Preston Foster as rebel Dan Gallagher.
The central performance in this film is extraordinary. Oscar-winning and intense, Victor McLagen depicts the sudden changes in Gypo's mood from the early scenes where he's scurrying around the foggy streets to his final scene with Una O'Connor as Mrs McPhillip. The reason it works so well is that it's utterly realistic. When Gypo tries to extricate himself in an interrogation with the rebels you can actually see the cogs in his mind working. His remonstrations may not be realistic because the point of getting there is so obviously catalogued for the audience. A similar thing happens during another interrogation later, more painful to watch than the first as he tries desperately to save his own skin.
Some of the other performances pale in comparison to McLaglen. Margot Grahame and Heather Angel are occasionally a little too outlandish in their roles, though Una O'Connor is excellent in her relatively small role. Preston Foster, too, exudes a quiet authority well-suited to his part. Some of the other faces melded into one but there were flashes of excellence throughout. In addition, the fogginess and murkiness of Ireland at this point in history is depicted brilliant using the sets and lighting. While some films of this era can feel plastic, I was focused throughout this on the story, not how unrealistic the sets were. Something I wasn't keen on all the time was the Oscar-winning score. While the repetition of certain refrains was welcome, occasionally it intruded on the action when silence may have been better.
For the most part, this film is thought-provoking and difficult to watch. John Ford thoroughly deserved his Best Director Oscar for this one.