The last two times I have reviewed Ray Milland was for his fiendish performance in Dial M For Murder and his harrowing performance as an alcoholic writer in The Lost Weekend. Milland's performance in this film and to an even greater extent in the haunted house film The Uninvited gives what can be viewed as a more traditional leading man turn by Milland. I chose Ministry of Fear out of the two performances though because it does present a little more of a challenge for Milland, although both films are examples of Milland's abilities in playing a fairly straight forward role.
Milland is quite good in both roles having a real ease in the parts and is quite able to have just a natural charm opposed to that brilliantly slimy charm that he had later in Dial M for Murder. Milland work here reminds me of Robert Donat's work in 39 Steps. Although there is a far lesser emphasis on humor, as this is not a Hitchcock thriller, when there is a chance to lighten things up a bit Milland is always able to pull off quite smoothy and never compromises the more the serious tone of the film.
Both the Uninvited and Ministry of Fear relies largely on Milland to carry the film often without even having a great deal to say. Milland though has a very strong screen presence and with great ease acts as a guide for us to follow through the plots of both films. Milland is always able to add just the right weight to any scene whether it is finding one more double cross set by Nazis or witnessing the howls of the ghostly specter. Milland is always able to assert himself just enough, to allow the story to play out as it should while keeping the audience invested in his character too.
I did choose Ministry of Fear over the Uninvited because there is a dark streak to Milland's character in this film. His character holds a secret which is that he mercy killed his wife. The film leaves this only a small part of the film, and it seems like an element of the film that should have more time devoted to it. This really is not a problem because Milland, alluding his later work in The Lost Weekend, completely delivers in the few scenes that delve into Neale's past. The scenes are quick and very much to the point but Milland completely delivers in giving the moments the impact they need.
Milland in Ministry of Fear and The Uninvited completely delivers on being an interesting and entertaining leading man to follow through both films with their twist filled stories. In both film he gives a nicely assured work and in the most serious scenes of Ministry of fear he certainly gives a strong indication to the greatness he would achieve one year later in the Lost Weekend. Neither Ministry of Fear or The Uninvited feature Ray Milland's best performance by any measure, but both are a strong indication of his talent as an actor. They also show what a shame it is that he rarely remembered for anything other then his very much deserved Oscar win.