Mirage is a 1965 suspense thriller directed by Edward Dmytryk. Although in fact the exact genre to which this film should be assigned remains uncertain for much of its running time. It’s part psychological thriller and part crime thriller with suggestions that it might at any moment veer off in the direction of the espionage thriller, the techno-thriller or even science fiction.
Gregory Peck stars as David Stillwell. At least he believes his name is David Stillwell. That’s about the only thing he’s fairly certain of and he’s really not at all sure even about that.
David Stillwell has had a rather puzzling day. People keep greeting him as though they hadn’t seen him for a long time, even when they saw him the day before. And then there’s the girl on the stairway who is sure she knows him. He’s equally sure he’s never met her. They met on the stairway during the blackout, the blackout being another puzzling thing about David’s day. The power went off all over the building, just about the time that noted do-gooder Charles Calvin jumped from the 27th floor.
And did I mention the guy who pulled a gun on him in his apartment? The guy who told David he was about to take a trip to Barbados where he would meet the Major. And he was to be sure to bring his briefcase with him, although this is another puzzle because his briefcase is completely empty.
There is only so much even the best PI can do. Ultimately it’s up to David to remember whatever it is that he doesn’t really want to remember. It’s something that shattered all his illusions and exposed the hypocrisy of the professional do-gooders of this world. His big problem is that remembering is only going to be possible if he can stay alive long enough and there are obviously people who do not intend that he should survive.
Walter Matthau provides some low-key comic relief although Caselle is not played entirely for laughs. It’s not that kind of film. It’s an intense kind of film so any overt comedy would be out of place but Matthau’s brand of sly understated humour provides a welcome break in the tension.
Diane Baker as Shela has to be mysterious, which she manages well, and she also has to be a kind of low-key femme fatale (I’m using the term low-key a lot but that’s the sort of movie it is). It’s a generally effective performance.
Murder, My Sweet and psychological dramas such as The Caine Mutiny) and he’s always in full control.
Universal’s DVD release provides a rather grainy anamorphic transfer. The graininess may be inherent in the source materials and may well have been a deliberate choice. It certainly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film.
Mirage is an effective offbeat thriller that keeps the audience guessing. We really have no idea where this movie is going until quite late in proceedings. There’s more than a hint of film noir (or possibly neo-noir, this being 1965). Highly recommended.