Perfectly executed Hitchcock Noir, To Catch a Thief is a misleading mystery plot that plays itself out with due subtlety, double entendred dialogue, masterful silent set pieces, but is otherwise mechanical and light compared to his very best films.
John Robie (get it), played by Cary Grant, is a former thief, now Hitchcock’s wrong man who’s nevertheless still a slimeball, justifying his womanizing with the sleek and simple “I am who am.” He decides to plant an ambush to catch the imposter thief “using” his former identity, setting up a fittingly convoluted plot that has the cluelessly clued-up ingenue with a purpose played by princess-to-be Grace Kelly working on a catch of her own.
It’s a great script, themes are set up, payed off, then reset when you thought you had it figured, then finally resolved. Hitchcock is also in fine form, especially as noted with the set pieces and a couple of stunning (visual) moments like diamonds glistening with thematic association (not nearly subtle) on the neck of a headless beauty in the refracted light of fireworks, the sparks of a noir love affair. Yet both metaphors were to be bettered in Vertigo.
In other words, nothing’s wrong here , yet very little is exceptional by Hitchcock standards, and the final product has zero longevity except for students, something to be entertained by, then forget as soon as you leave it. Everything’s neatly, quaintly patched up and locked away: the mystery McGuffen, the bad guys, the romance. But that numb feeling of indifference is called artistic mediocrity.