The Steel Trap is a classic film noir from 1952, directed and written by Andrew Stone. This was the second time that Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright starred in a film together, following Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt 9 years earlier. In Shadow of a Doubt they played uncle and niece, in Steel Trap they play a happily married couple.
Cotten plays Jim Osborne, an employee at a bank, where he has worked for 11 years and has moved up the ranks some. The beginning of the film shows him doing the same routine going to work, every day, over and over again.
He has a crazy idea in his head that just will not go away. He keeps thinking about how he could get away with robbing the bank and not get caught. He starts studying in the library different laws and extradition rules. When he decides to do it and run to Brazil, he takes his wife with him. His wife, Laurie, played by Teresa Wright, is our barometer of all that is good.
Cotten does a great job with the internal dialog, thinking things out and deciding what the next step is. This film really gave a sense of claustrophobia, as Jim seems to get in a deeper hole all the time and the audience roots for him to get away with the money. In the end this film asks the questions, what really makes you happy in life? and does money equal happiness?
Without giving to much away, I really liked how this film was structured. I also liked the moral questions it proposes. I guess most things noir asks this question, but Jim has a little more to lose then some of our noir protagonists.
This is a very good film, and different enough to be entertaining and fresh. If you are a fan of either of the stars, or just a fan of classic film noir, this movie is worth your time.