When he discovers an old friend, black market swindler Harry Lime, has died in a sudden car accident, down on his luck pulp novelist Holly Martins finds himself in a seedy post-war Vienna, embroiled in a mystery that everyone in the city seems desperate to cover up. The plot of The Third Man - currently enjoying its latest 4K DVD and Blu Ray re-release - with its gritty, sleazy fake-smiles and its dishonest attempts at legitimacy provides the perfect contrast to the equally grimy underworld of Vienna where most of the movie takes place. Nothing in The Third Man can be taken at face-value, everything from the characters you meet to the basic narrative set-up that thrusts most of Carol Reed's classic noir demands to be questioned and queried - creating a permeating atmosphere of mystery and uneasiness that's still felt upon multiple viewings and over 60 years later.

Because atmosphere's Reed's prime directive with The Third Man, as the director makes use of a still-unmatched visual style that practically oozes with uneasy mysticism. With its canted frames, deep focus and longing angles, Reed photographs both his downtrodden location and characters with an engaging and considered style. Vienna itself makes the perfect backdrop for the story, as its post-war aesthetic is captured with raw authenticity. Yet, Reed's stylish but subdued cinematography paints the city as almost mythical in nature, becoming intrinsic to the movie's plot with such a power and importance that it might as well be considered another character. The Third Man's sophisticated sense of visual storytelling is still impressive to this day, and it's almost incomprehensible to think how far Reed's film was ahead of the curve all the way back in 1949.

But atmosphere only gets you so far, and The Third Man wouldn't be as revered as it is today if it didn't boast a narrative that backed it up. Fortunately, Reed's at first rather basic plot transforms into a much larger and more detailed pulpy gangster noir by the film's end. With a distinctive set of brilliantly written and performed characters, the world of The Third Man pulsates with an energy and vibrancy that's flawlessly executed. There's no one-dimensional characters to be found here; from charismatic villains to doubting heroes, no one person in the film feels extraneous or unneeded in the grand scheme of things.

Fortunately, the superb sense of character lends itself to thrilling set-pieces easily. In fact, The Third Man is practically bursting at the seams with iconic moments thanks to its powerhouse cast and its exceptional screenplay. Even someone with only a passing knowledge of film will have seen one of the movie's more famous scenes, whether it's the Ferris wheel speech or the final underground chase. Even in 2015, these done to death sequences still stand out as classics for a reason, and it's no wonder why Carol Reed's film has practically gone down as the textbook example of how to pull off amazing cinematic moments.

However, although The Third Man is known for its most famous moments, it's surprising just how the film keeps firing on all cylinders even in the most unassuming of scenes. Reed's atmospheric camerawork turns every sequence into a claustrophobic and effecting visual experience, using everything in the frame to embellish a pervading feeling of guilt, anxiety and uncertainty. Interestingly though, the director doesn't deliver these dreary emotions with downbeat cynicism, as there's always a wry, underlying pulpy affection for the seedy environments The Third Man so gorgeously photographs.

As a result, it's this deep love and admiration for its surroundings and characters that makes The Third Man such an engrossing watch. Take the scene where it's finally revealed that Harry isn't dead, but has actually been playing everyone for a fool the whole time. The scene is shot with an overbearing despondency, but when it finally cuts to Harry in the shadows as Holly notices him, Orson Welles is beaming with such a giant smarmy grin that it completely flips the tone of the scene on its head. The people we're watching are terrible, yes, but at least they're having fun with it.

But, sadly, there's only so much you can say about The Third Man before you start repeating yourself. Yes, the screenplay is nigh-on perfect, the cinematography gorgeous and the performances instantly memorable, but nothing written down on the page can possibly do justice to describe just what Reed is able to bring to life on the screen in this defining classic. You really just have to sit down and watch it for yourself, and with the latest 4K restoration about to hit store shelves, there's really never been a better time to do so.

Boasting all-new material, the 4K restoration of The Third Man releases in a special Collector's Edition Blu Ray and DVD on the 20th of July.