As the opening credits fade away, we are shown a dark room and two shadows fighting on the wall. The light is broken, leaving the end of the struggle a mystery. When the light is replaced, we see one man on the floor, another sitting in a chair pulled up by and out the door by a third man. There is the murder, the rest of the film unravels the mystery.
With Captain Finlay (Robert Young) at the scene, we learn that the victim’s name was Samuels (Sam Levene). Just before his death, he was at a bar talking to a group of demobilized soldiers. Of the group are Leroy (William Phipps) a naive boy from Tennessee, Sgt. Montgomery (Robert Ryan) a bossy racist, Floyd (Steve Brodie) who follows Montgomery’s lead and Mitchell (George Cooper) who’s reported to have been acting a little nuts lately. With Mitchell’s wallet found at the scene, he’s the prime suspect. But no one can find Mitchell, so the soldiers go out trying to find him before the police do.
As characters are found or questioned, the story is told in flashbacks. Each person has more to reveal about the crime and their actions leading up to it. When it turns out that Mitchell claims to have an alibi, his freedom may rest in what jaded dancer Ginny (Gloria Grahame) has to say about him.
There’s a great internal conflict that comes up about demobilized soldiers. With WWII just over, they’re left with no mission and no money. Now that all that is over, it seems the men are lost. For years they have had a job to do and someone to direct their hate towards. When the real murderer and motive comes out, it’s much uglier than anticipated.
Crossfire is an interesting whodunit with a post WWII moral agenda. If you enjoy a murder mystery, classic noir style or a military drama, I recommend this film.
“You know the kind. Played it safe during the war, keepin’ themselves in civvies, nice apartments, swell dames… you know the kind.”