Montgomery Clift did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Father Michael William Logan in I Confess.
Montgomery Clift plays a very different from Private Prewitt in From Here to Eternity as he plays the unassuming priest Father Logan. They do share one strong similarity in that they are both men of an intense moral conviction. Prewitt refused to fight in the Captain's boxing team, despite constant harassment for doing so, and Logan refuses to break his vows as a Catholic priest to reveal what was told to him. Technically Clift could have taken the exact same approach for both Logan and Prewitt but it is interesting to see how Clift approaches Logan in a different fashion. Although obviously hearing the confession of the murder obviously bothers him for obvious reasons, even before he is being suspected of the murder, Clift does not portray Logan's conviction in causing him any personal pain rather he uses this to show the nature of Logan as a priest.
Clift portrays Father Logan as a man who has absolute belief in the sacred nature of the confession and therefore there is never a doubt in his mind about not speaking about the confession. Clift is very good in every scene where Logan is pressed for any information associated with the confession only to speak in a way that in no way alludes to anything being held secret. Clift suggests merely the purity of the man's conviction as he keeps Logan's demeanor matter of fact as he refuses to divulge any information about the confession. It technically would probably be tempting to portray some strong internal struggle in the character but Clift stays true to the character by just carrying a pronounced sense of duty in his manner in these scenes. Clift continues to take a seemingly unorthodox approach to the other aspects of the role as well particularly in regards to the past romance that Logan had with a woman before he became a priest.
Logan technically forces himself to be even more quiet about the murderer because he was a blackmailer of his old flame (Anne Baxter), and Logan in no way wants to harm her reputation. Clift again is very much true to his character as a good priest above else. Even in the scenes where she declares her undying love for Logan Clift is very careful in his reaction. Clift is quite effective in showing that Logan's feelings for her have diminished long ago in favor of his devotion to the priesthood. Clift treads quite a fine line in that on one side he makes it clear that Logan no longer shares his sentiments and portrays an understanding of that without being overly warm yet still avoiding presenting Logan as an emotionally cold man. Clift finds the right balance that always feels right for the self-sacrificing character that is Father Logan. Clift simply never cheats the character and creates the selfless nature of the man in an honest and affecting fashion.
Although Clift is lead the film spends a considerable amount of time
with Baxter's character or with Karl Malden detective who is slowly
building the case against Father Logan. The film never quite bothers to
choose if it wants to be a character driven piece on the Father or a
more traditional Hitchcock thriller suffering due to that. Clift's performance is forced to be particularly reactive in nature, but he manages to create a fairly powerful portrait of this man through this. The end of the film is especially striking because of Clift's work in the way he so wonderfully realizes the selfless nature of Father Logan. As he stands accused of murder, and considered guilty by many even before the trail begins. Clift reactions are consistently effective in showing the way Father Logan quietly seems to almost absorb the responsibility of the situation. It's poignant soulful work from him here and I only wish the film was not quite so confined by the progression of the plot.