“We thought you'd been killed.”
I have bitched time and again on this blog about plots in films dealing with mistaken identity or characters being wrongly accused of something and being chased. THEY ARE SO OVER USED! It is becoming increasingly rare that I find a film with either plot enjoyable. Ministry of Fear is one of those films I found not enjoyable.
Stephen Neale (Ray Milland) has just spent two years in an asylum. He is released back into society during World War II in England. In the town where the asylum is located there is a charity fair. Stephen goes into the fair to have some fun. He takes part in a raffle to guess the weight of a cake and win the cake. When he is done Stephen is told to visit the fortune teller in a nearby tent. The fortune teller claims not to predict the future but then tells him to guess the weight of the cake at a certain number. Once done with the teller Stephen goes back over to the guessing game and wins the cake. Just has he is about to leave a man comes speeding over in a car and runs over the teller. The ladies from the guessing game come running over to Stephen that he has to give the cake back since he guessed wrong. When looks over to the tent the teller and the man are staring Stephen down. Not thinking anything of the looks and the commotion Stephen gives the ladies a few dollars and takes the cake with him on the train into London.
Before the train departs a blind man comes into the compartment that Stephen has been placed in. Planes and bombs can be heard outside so Stephen looks out the window. The blind man is not really blind and out of nowhere he starts beating Stephen. The train comes to a stop from the bombing and the two men run out. Where they run to get bombed but Stephen is alright but his cakes did not make it.
In London Stephen goes to the headquarters of the charity who organized the fair. He wants to know who the teller was and where he can find her to speak to her about what happened to him. The charity is run by siblings Willi and Carla Hilfe two Austrian refugees. Willi finds the woman lives in London and the two go to have a word with her. When they arrive at the house the woman who greets them is not the woman who was the fortune teller but a young beautiful socialite who helped organize the fair and hired the teller. She invites Stephen and Willi to a séance she was just about to hold. During the séance the psychic reveals some energy in the room and it strikes a nerve in Stephen and he freaks out. In that same moment a gun goes off and a man is killed. Stephen had a gun in his pocket with one bullet that he had picked up at the site where he fought the not-blind-man. Everyone blames Stephen and they call the police. When he takes out the gun from his pocket there are more bullets in it than before. He has to get away and Willi devises the plan for Stephen to punch him and then run away.
Now, Stephen is on the run to get to the bottom of who is trying to kill him and why. There is a spy within the British ministry and he must find out who it is before he is returned to the asylum or worse murdered for something he does not either know or have.
Ministry of Fear is a film I have been waiting to see for a long time. I always see it on sale on Barnes and Noble during the Criterion sales over the summer and it is always super cheap when it is fifty percent off. Since I always notice it during the sale I have always wanted to see it especially because Fritz Lang is the director. I guess I was expecting a good story that would keep me interested and unfortunately it did not. I was bored with the story almost from the beginning when Stephen is chased off the train because I knew that it was going to have a plot that drives me crazy with hatred. Ministry of Fear is not a terrible film. The pacing is just a bit slow. The fact that I was not into it more than likely has to do with the fact that I hyped it up for so long in my mind. Damn the Criterion collection for making me want to see a film so bad and then letting me down! It is worth seeing at least once especially because it is a Fritz Lang film. Ministry of Fear is available to view on YouTube in full.