For a bounty of 20,000 pounds (about $100,000 at the time), Harry thinks that anyone would be willing to eliminate at least one dot.
The proposal may seem monstrously callous, but the ruins of Vienna—omnipresent in the film—serve to remind us that the “good” airmen of the Allied forces destroyed countless dots in the bombing campaign of World War II and received medals for doing so.
As we follow the long last chase of the anti-hero in the cavernous sewers of Vienna, Reed’s camera does everything to make us identify with Harry.
Using quick cuts, the director makes it seem as if an enormous army of policemen is pursuing Lime, closing in on him from every direction.
And thanks largely to the actor’s manner of casual immorality—his easy shrugs of indifference toward rules and laws—Harry comes to dominate the film even when he’s not in the frame.
It seems to take forever for Greene and Reed to bring Welles into the picture, but when he does appear, it’s one of the greatest entrances in film history.He looks at ease, a man confident that he can return to the darkness whenever he pleases.Though dressed all in black, he quickly dispels any notion that he is a stock villain by allowing a coy smile to play across his lips, disarming us with an expression of innocent self-satisfaction.That refined Englishman could never have captured the air of buoyant brutality that the American Welles brings to the part.Why does film noir still have a large following today?This kind of moral equivocation is now a constant in our world of terrorist outrages, drone attacks, and air raids on innocent civilians who are written off as “collateral damage.” The “good guys” in our conflicts have never been harder to find.And nothing can explain more vividly how we came to this sad state of affairs than The Third Man.Against such odds, his desperate escape attempt looks valiant.He may be doomed to die in the underworld of the sewers, but the irony is that the hellish maze below ground looks tidier and grander than the bombed city overhead.For most of his long literary career, Greene was fascinated with the borderline between good and evil, and he found in the alien world of bombed-out, occupied Vienna a setting so grandly sinister that it demanded a resident devil like Harry Lime, a man exquisitely at home in the pervasive gloom.On the pages of Greene’s script—and even more so in the book version of The Third Man—Harry’s character lacks the softer edge of evil that Welles gives it.