ACE IN THE HOLE (1951)
Billy Wilder's ACE IN THE HOLE is a pessimistic look at capitalist America and in particular the ruthlessness and depravity which can plague any man or woman desperate for wealth. The movie stars Kirk Douglas in a fantastic performance as Chuck Tatum, a tenacious journalist who finds himself out of luck and out of work in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With no money, Tatum wrangles himself a job at the local paper, but minces no word of his motives: to hang around long enough to get a scoop big enough that will take him back to the big papers of Back East. While en route to a routine story assignment, Tatum and his young photographer stumble upon a breaking story: a miner has been trapped after the shaft he was working in collapsed. Tatum, realizing the opportunity, springs into action and establishes contact with the miner, then calls in his story. The response is nothing less than a literal media circus. The public quickly arrives at this backwater mine shaft off the highway, bringing with it the press, tourists, lookie-loos, bands, the carnival, and anyone and everyone in between who sees an opportunity to make a buck. Tatum is determined to keep this story his own and in the process he himself becomes a sort of hero--and indeed part of the story--around the disaster area.
Director Billy Wilder's amazingly poignant story poses many questions we continue to ask today about the role of the media in their reportage, and especially how far one will go to tell, and ultimately, control a story. Kirk Douglas is excellent as Tatum, a man who is so driven to tell this story, but is not at all coy about his motives: money, fame, praise, heroism. Those expecting an honourable Douglas will be in for a surprise, it is a far cry from many of his other Hollywood roles, and certainly a lot darker and more pessimistic.
I watched ACE IN THE HOLE on Criterion's relatively recent release of the film on DVD and it looked fantastic. The picture was incredible in all its gorgeous black and white glory. This film is definitely worth a view, especially for any of those who are in, or interested in, the media, and well, basically anyone who enjoys a good solid film that has some questions about morality. Check it out! You will not be disappointed.