The Angry Silence has everything that the critics have said British films lack. The subject matter is contemporary, and shot in an industrial setting with a black and white naturalism. It deals with a social problem and has a working class hero.
The film demonstrates how irrelevant these characteristics are to quality
Not that it is without merit. Perhaps for the first time on British screens a factory worker comes home to watch the telly and do his pools and it is not meant to be funny. The character of the hero, Tom Curtis, and his relationship with his family is one of the happiest things about the film.
There is a nice feeling for the pattern of family life. Domestic irritation is part of this pattern, as well as sentimental affection, and yet we do not feel that these have been added to give the “other side of the picture". Slight incidents—the mother throwing the front door key from the top window to the little girl on her return from school, Tom going off, with his trousers turned into his socks, to play football with his son Brian, and Brian himself pattering through in his pyjamas to announce: "me heart has stopped”—are carefully observed without degenerating into “social observation”.
Richard Attenborough as Tom Curtis plays with an understanding that suggests an ability which would certainly have been developed within the framework of any more progressive industry. The casting of Pier Angeli in the role of the wife Anna (although she is less adequate) is not as inappropriate as might have been feared. Because of this, and because of the script— which, although it has its lapses, at least indicates an awareness of how people actually speak—these early scenes establish on the part of the audience a genuine sympathy for Tom. When his crisis comes, when he refuses to strike and is subsequently sent to “Coventry”,
Unfortunately these positive qualities are all but obliterated by a chaotic plot and a mounting melodrama imposed on the film from the outside.
The film opens with the arrival in Melsham of a man called Travers who makes secret contact with Connolly, the shop steward, and is represented as the man behind the strike. The atmosphere this establishes is that of the thriller. Presumably Travers is meant to be a Communist. At least his appearance—sunken cheeks, tweed jacket, glasses, etc.—suggests the screen stereotype of the agitator. His actual role is, however, treated so obliquely that he must present a puzzle to many audiences. He is seen every so often ringing London for instructions. A hurried reference on the phone to ICBM is the only hint in the film about the work of the factory. It is suggested that Travers is using Connolly, and Connolly is shown as an old time unionist dreaming of the days of hunger marches and worker’s solidarity and resenting the current teenage indifference. But it is hard to believe that Connolly is unaware that he is engaged in secret plotting.