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ODD MAN OUT

Director: CAROL REED

U.K.| 1947. BLACK AND WHITE. 115 MIN.


ONE OF THE FINEST FILMS ON THE ‘TROUBLES’ IN NORTHERN IRELAND, ‘ODD MAN OUT’ IS ALSO A CHARACTERISTIC CAROL REED THRILLER.

‘I think this was a great film, perhaps Carol Reed’s best ,’ said James Mason, adding, ‘certainly it was mine.’ He plays the leader of a political organisation (implicitly, the IRA) who is mortally wounded during a robbery and goes on the run. As midnight approaches, phantasmagoric images of mortality begin to crowd the mind of this haunted, hunted creature clinging to life. Meanwhile, seemingly the whole of Belfast society becomes caught up in his dilemma—to harm or help, exploit or understand.

Sometimes seen as a Christian allegory and attacked for its flashy style and overt symbolism, the film, at its heart, has a generous humanity that is the hallmark of Reed at his best. ‘It is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation,’ says the film’s preface, ‘but only in the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved.’ Love, charity, fear, greed and deceit are all observed with equal understanding, and the performances are extraordinary (particularly Robert Newton’s mad artist and F. J. McCormick’s shifty informer, both worthily commemorated in Harold Pinter’s ‘Old Times’).The soundtrack is imaginative; the visuals have the dark intensity of vintage film noir. Technically, Reed was the equal of any director working in the cinema at that time, but the technique is never for its own sake but at the service of an exciting, compassionate study of justice, mercy and the futility of violence.—Neil Sinyard.

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