The relentless cat-and-mouse game that is T-Men (1947) proves that, in film noir, you can’t take anything for granted.
The titular T-Men are Dennis O’Brien (Dennis O’Keefe) and Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder), two U.S. Treasury agents who go undercover to hunt down a counterfeit ring in Detroit and Los Angeles.
The screenplay by John C. Higgins is fantastic, but the star of T-Men is the collaboration between director Anthony Mann and cinematographer John Alton. I recently watched and talked about Raw Deal (1948), also starring Dennis O’Keefe, and, when I was watching it, I knew Mann/Alton would become one of my favorite movie partnerships. They always knew how to produce the best shots, with the best angles and the best shadows and lighting. The opening scene of T-Men in particular – after the introductory narration – is nothing short of amazing. So dark, literally and figuratively, and so scary, you will actually gasp out loud. As you can imagine, this is one of the heavy noirs. In fact, everything and everyone seems to be constantly on edge up until the end and, for the viewer, any given scene can be simultaneously frightening and heart-breaking. Which is quite a feat.
T-Men is tense, fearless and unbelievably exciting. And like Dennis and Tony, you can’t let your guard down at any point. You couldn’t even if you tried.