Watch Contraband

"Stop that man and woman! His mission is deadlier than that of the enemy in the sky. Her beauty is a dangerous weapon of war!"
  • NR
  • 1940
  • 1 hr 20 min
  • 6.9  (1,321)

Contraband, released in the United States under the title "Blackout," is a British espionage thriller set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War II. Directed by Michael Powell, who later became famous for films such as "The Red Shoes" and "Peeping Tom," Contraband stars Conrad Veidt, Valerie Hobson, and Hay Petrie. While maintaining elements of suspense and romance, the film showcases the intricate web of deceit and intelligence during wartime.

Conrad Veidt plays Captain Andersen, the stern yet honorable master of a Danish merchant ship, S.S. Helvig, which is en route to England amidst the dangerous waters of the North Sea. The tale unfolds at a critical moment as Europe is steeped in conflict; the threat of German U-boats and the challenges of maintaining neutrality weigh heavily on the seafaring vessel and its crew.

Valerie Hobson portrays Mrs. Sorensen, a charming and enigmatic passenger whose arrival on the ship introduces an intriguing element of mystery. Her motives and affiliations become the focal point of the plot, as her actions and interactions with other passengers and crew members raise suspicions about her true identity and intentions.

The varying passengers aboard the S.S. Helvig appear to be ordinary people but are quickly revealed to hold secrets of their own. The war has forced each individual into situations that require discretion and often, the bending of loyalties. Captain Andersen finds himself embroiled in the web of espionage as he seeks to navigate not only the treacherous waters but also the perilous underworld of wartime subterfuge.

Hay Petrie's portrayal of a key supporting character further enriches the story's espionage milieu, adding layers of complexity and intrigue to the unfolding events. Each character's storyline is deftly interwoven, creating a tapestry of suspense and drama that reflects the uncertain and conspiratorial mood of the early years of World War II.

Contraband takes place predominantly during a single night, highlighting the heightened tensions and anxiety of its time. The film deftly utilizes the motif of a blackout, both literally and metaphorically, capturing the essence of wartime Britain—the darkness not only concealing the actions of individuals bent on deception but also serving as a shield against the watchful eyes of enemy forces.

The atmospheric tension is heightened by the film's cinematography, marked by its use of shadows and light, which gives it a distinctive noir aesthetic. This visual strategy adds to the sense of claustrophobia and urgency that the characters experience while aboard the confined spaces of the ship and during their onshore clandestine encounters.

There are also instances of wry humor and a deft touch of romance that come into play, providing a counterbalance to the movie's darker themes. These lighter moments serve to humanize the characters and make their extraordinary situations more relatable to the audience. The interactions between Captain Andersen and Mrs. Sorensen offer moments of connection and understanding, with their chemistry providing a subtle romantic undercurrent amidst the spying and suspicion.

What sets Contraband apart within the wartime thriller genre is its remarkable ability to operate on multiple levels. It is a suspenseful espionage film with elements of a character-driven drama and a romance all in one. It deals with broad themes of loyalty and duty to one's country while also focusing on individual moral dilemmata in the face of oppressive circumstances.

The plot of Contraband weaves itself through layers of deceit and intrigue as characters must decide where their allegiances lie and to what lengths they are willing to go to fulfill their objectives. The stakes are high, and every choice made carries consequences that ripple through the lives of everyone involved.

The film cleverly takes advantage of its era's political milieu, offering commentary on the slippery nature of neutrality during wartime and the moral compromises required by individuals and nations alike. Throughout the story, alliances are tested, and the characters' capabilities for trust and deception are pushed to the limit.

Contraband has a certain timelessness that stems from its exploration of human nature under duress. The actions and decisions that take place during the film's tense narrative are emblematic of the broader human experience during global conflict. Even decades after its release, Contraband stands as a testament to the genre, a skillful blend of action, drama, suspense, and romance that continues to captivate audiences with its classic storytelling and powerful performances. The film remains an engaging artifact of its time and an enduring piece of wartime cinema.

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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 20 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.9  (1,321)