In Genoa during World War II, slick con man Emanuele Bardone (De Sica) gets nabbed by the Germans for tricking his fellow citizens into believing that, for a hefty price, he could track down their loved ones rounded up by the Gestapo. Once nabbed, the Nazis force Bardone to impersonate a recently killed partisan general, della Rovere, in prison, in order to get information on the General's surviving comrades. But, while incarcerated, Bardone finds something unexpected: his soul. Soon he is taking his part seriously, going against his handlers, and helping the political prisoners he was meant to expose.
Rossellini brought a devastating realism to the cinema with the neo-realist "Rome Open City." Here he adopts a more polished look and style, with higher production values, but the results are just as compelling. Oscar-nominated for Best Screenplay, this dramatic, intricate tale of one man's unlikely redemption was a big critical and financial success. The film runs on the charismatic performance of its star (better known as director of another neo-realist masterpiece, "Bicycle Thieves.") Playing a scoundrel who finds he has a conscience, De Sica is a revelation. By all means, salute this "General."