Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Movie Review: Odd Man Out (1947)

Odd Man Out (1947) directed by Carol Reed

Johnny McQueen (James Mason) has been hiding out for six months since breaking out of a Northern Ireland prison. He's an Irish nationalist and has been planning a big heist to finance the nationalists' activities. His friends (including his new girlfriend) try to convince him not to go on the heist since he's been out of the action for so long. He goes anyway. Things go awry during the getaway and Johnny is left on the streets of Belfast with a bullet in his shoulder. As he tries to get back to the safe house, he runs into a variety of people who have a variety of reactions to him and his predicament. Some want to help him out, some want to sell him out, some want nothing to do with him. His girlfriend and some of the other nationalists are also looking for him. The cops have all the streets blocked and are ready to bring him in, if only they can find him.

The movie is not at all a political diatribe for either side of the issue. Johnny is a dying man who is more of a pawn than a player. The story moves a little slowly at points but the stark noir visuals and the constant introduction of new characters who could be allies or betrayers keep viewers paying attention. The details of their personalities are quite rich and evocative--one cop isn't interested in whether people are good or bad, only in their innocence or guilt; a Catholic priest wants to help but the only payment he'll offer is faith. The actors, even in small roles, do a good job (William Hartnell, the First Doctor, plays a saloon owner!).

I certainly wouldn't describe this as a fun movie, nor would I call it a tense thriller or a great heist/chase movie. It is an interesting look at a desperate man at the mercy of the people around him and how those people treat him. I found the ending unsatisfying but understand it narratively.

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