Besides the suspenseful war story, The Scarlet and the Black also has a love story between two of the main characters and a smashing team of collaborating friends that work together marvelously to bring an emotional and sometimes tragic odyssey to the screen. It is not really an action film, although there is enough excitement to go around. O’Flaherty goes through a bevy of amusing disguises to escape Nazi detection and has to stay one step ahead of Kappler’s plans and investigations. It takes every ounce of O’Flaherty’s intelligence, determination, and quick thinking to save many lives, even those of Kappler’s family.
Selfless love and resolve to brave all prove that O’Flaherty’s Christian compassion wins the battle, even when he has to watch friends sacrifice themselves for their convictions during the course of the war. The Scarlet and the Black spans the middle of World War II until its end, finalizing the characters’ struggles with the triumph of the 1945 armistice. Through it all, Plummer and Peck compete for the upper hand in Rome, until Peck conquers with mercy and true goodness. Both actors are excellent in their roles, a fact which makes this movie so good; the performances of the supporting cast also contribute to the historical victories and losses in this new angle on World War II. Simply stated, The Scarlet and the Black is a tour de force war film.