MGM's version of Alfred Dreyfus' trial, imprisonment on Devil's Island, retrial, pardon and exoneration runs through the facts, and only once or twice touches on the ambiguities of the 'Dreyfus Affair' which made the infamous case, for France at the end of the 19th century, a compelling national tragedy. Ferrer, the star/director, plays Capt Dreyfus, of French military intelligence, with a contained dignity, highlighted by the histrionics of his outraged enemies (notably Lom and Wolfit). The film purrs along, helped by Freddie Young's b/w 'Scope photography and a competent all-star cast, and rises satisfyingly to its big moments, the public humiliation of Dreyfus and Emlyn Williams' impassioned rendition of Zola's noble call to arms ('J'accuse'). Scripted by Gore Vidal from a book by Nicholas Halasz, this is the sort of confident historical picture which from time to time Hollywood used to feel called upon to make, tackling big issues head on, while taking good care not to become mired in human and political paradoxes.
Cast and crew