Billy Wilder versus the Cold War!
Screenplay By: I.A.L. Diamond & Billy Wilder
Directed By: Billy Wilder
It’s funny that whenever I think of Billy Wilder I think of the man behind Ace In The Hole, Sunset Blvd. and Double Indemnity. I don’t think of the man behind Sabrina, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and now One, Two, Three. For some reason I focus on Wilder the dramatic director, when Wilder the comedic director is just as great. One, Two, Three is another great addition to Wilder’s comedic exploits and to his film catalog in general.
One, Two, Three is a different Wilder comedy in that it focuses almost solely on the driving force and speed of one man. When he works with someone like Jack Lemmon Wilder caters to what the actor is capable of, but those pictures still come across as a collaborative effort all around. With One, Two, Three Wilder looks at James Cagney and says, “This is what I have, you go with it.” And boy does Gagney ever go with it. It really is amazing to watch James Cagney at his finest, ripping off dialogue at a machine gun pace, with nary a misstep to be found anywhere. He can be funny with just his manic delivery style, but when coupled with great material he becomes hysterical.
One, Two, Three is a satire about the Cold War, but it isn’t a very deep one. That’s not to say it’s a bad satire, simply that this is a film that doesn’t want to go beyond the first layer, after all that first layer of bureaucracy and nations colliding is ripe with comedic material as it is. The state of Germany in 1961 is skewered, the idea of capitalism versus communism is ridiculed and the social status is mocked. Of course the resolution reached is far from realistic, but this is a farce, anyone wanting a more realistic end to the East/West conflict is watching the wrong movie.
There are a few jokes in One, Two, Three that fall flat. The sequence with Miss Ingeborg dancing on a table in the Russian zone strains for comedy, yet never quite reaches the level where it’s funny and it goes on for a bit too long. The end of the MP’s search for the polka dot dress and the breast tattoos fizzles instead of pops in the humor department. Outside of those few moments One, Two, Three is consistently funny, and unrelentingly so.
Billy Wilder is a great comedic director, even if I sometimes forget that fact. One, Two, Three is yet another great comedic effort from Mr. Wilder. The cast is on point throughout, but James Cagney is the life blood of this film. He pushes the pace every single second he is on camera, so much so he’s a bit infectious, leaving the viewer in a rather hurried state when the film is over, despite having no reason to feel hurried. One, Two, Three is a good social commentary, but most of all it is a film that makes you laugh, whether the joke is obvious or subtle. Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola, as long as James Cagney is at the helm I’ll be there.