Quickly following their success with The Spy in Black, Powell and Pressburger devised a thriller set in the early days of the war, with many satirical elements. Andersen is a Danish captain who sets out to uncover a German spy-ring in London, largely based in restaurants and cabarets, and progress of the chase provides many opportunities for homages to Fritz Lang and inventive design by Junge.
Contraband demonstrated perfectly how Powell and Pressburger could seize on the contingent novelties of wartime and convert these into an entertainment both playful and provocative. What more sarcastic comment could there be on the mood of 1940 than a warehouse full of unsaleable plaster busts of Chamberlain, which is the setting for an escape into the impenetrable darkness of the blackout and for the final shootout? Powell recalled his delight at being able to show a great city under blackout for the first time on the screen, but this also serves as a metaphor for the confusion of wartime loyalties. Powell and Pressburger were among the first to argue for the vast propaganda potential of fiction films, rather than documentary, and to carry their case to the Ministry of Information.
Ian Christie (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger: Arrows of Desire)