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Odd Man Out is a terrific piece of cinema. It is set in Ireland and
stars James Mason as Johnny McQueen; leader of an underground Irish
organization that engage in a robbery that will enable the organisation
to steal the funds it needs to continue it's activities. However, the
heist goes sour. Events conspire against him, and Johnny ends up
wounded and alone in the city of Belfast. The police then launch a huge
manhunt to find the criminal and lead him to justice, and what follows
is a desperate struggle by Johnny, and Johnny's friends, to get him to
safety. Before the film starts, it claims that it is not about the
state of Ireland at that time, but rather the effect that the state of
the country has had on it's people; and that is exactly what the film
does. The neutral people in the film are caught between whose side to
be on; helping the police will keep them out of jail, and for some,
make them feel like they are doing the right thing; but nobody wants to
get on the wrong side of Johnny's "organisation", as that could also be
detrimental to your survival. All of the characters in the film have
some affiliation to the state, be it good for them or, more commonly,
bad for them.
Odd Man Out is an adventure. It's an adventure about one man's struggle to get from point A to point B. Like all good adventure films, he meets people along the way; some that will help him, some that won't. It's exciting in this respect, but the film isn't only an adventure. As he did in his other masterpiece; The Third Man, Carol Reed succeeds in giving a thriller a great substance. That's one of things that's great about this film; on the surface, it's entertaining and therefore can be enjoyed by anyone, but if you take a look under it's skin, the film has depth also; which firmly places it in the "film buff" category of films. Odd Man Out clearly highlights the paranoia, values and fears of the era, and these are explored through the main character.
Odd Man Out is one of the best directed films that I've ever seen. Carol Reed is an excellent director, and one who is worthy of more acclaim. Here, he indulges in many tricks with the camera, including a terrific sequence that sees our hero see multiple images in a puddle of spilled beer. Reed pulls all of these tricks off, and none look out of place. Considering that this movie was made in 1947, it's a piece of technical wizardry. Reed also uses many different cinema styles at different times to further his story. The film is dramatic at certain points where the characters are interacting, but at the other end of the spectrum; it's very cinematic at certain times, most notably in the scenes that see Johnny being chased through the streets of Belfast. These scenes are extremely atmospheric and very aesthetically pleasing. Despite indulging in many different tricks and styles; the film is never gratuitous. Where another, lesser, director might have gone over the top; Reed doesn't, and it keeps the film very much on the level, which is to his, and this piece of art's credit.
Overall, Odd Man Out is a masterpiece that is on par with, if not better than The Third Man. It's a shame that it has seemingly been forgotten as this movie can surely take it's place among the best of all time. A glorious must see.
"Odd Man Out" is far more than just a very good "cops and robbers" movie, although it can hold its own with most. Beneath that is a deep psychological drama as Johnny McQueen, an IRA rebel, wounded in a holdup, is pursued by police, his own gang, and several unsavory characters. McQueen becomes less of a man and more symbol to his hunters. He is viewed as a martyr, meal ticket, and art project. Robert Newton is excellent in his role as a half-mad artist who wants to hold Johnny just long enough to paint the expression in the eyes of a dying man. Intensely suspenseful, set in the working-class neighborhoods and slums, the gray atmosphere compliments the plot perfectly. One of James Mason's finest.
It is the winter of 1946-47. Johnny McQueen (James Mason) is a revered
leader of the Irish Republican Army in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Recently
escaped from prison, he plans to rob a mill to provide funds for the
organization though his colleagues urge him not to be involved. Awarded Best
British Film at the British Academy Awards and nominated for an Oscar for
Best Editing, Odd Man Out, directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man), is the
story of a botched robbery that leads to murder and the attempt of a
seriously wounded man to elude capture. Pursued by "The Inspector" (Dennis
O'Dea), Johnny is helped by Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan), a young IRA
woman who loves him and tries to smuggle him out of the city. He wanders
helplessly in the dark streets and alleys of Belfast, buffeted by rain and
snow, living in cellars with derelicts, constantly exposed to danger,
looking more like a walking zombie than a revolutionary. The tone of the
film is dark and Kafkaesque with its thin line between reality and
Johnny is one of Mason's best roles especially during the early part of the film but he is submerged in the second half by a string of exaggerated supporting characters that include a demented painter Lukey (Robert Newton) who wants to paint his death mask, a priest (W.G. Fay) who wants to save his soul, sisters Rosie and Maudie (Fay Compton and Beryl Measor) who give him shelter but force him out, and con man Shell (F.J. McCormick) who wants to use him to make money. Odd Man Out is not a political film or even a suspense thriller but a surreal allegory of the limits of man's compassion. When Lukey looks at Johnny and says, "I understand what I see in him. The truth about us all", we can see ourselves -- running for our life, scared and alone, awaiting the encroaching night.
Odd Man Out is an almost flawless movie that is such a tribute to great
acting, writing, and storytelling. In a time when there are so many
blow em' up action movies with actors showing the talent levels of my
radio this movie can show you that there can indeed be great films that
don't involve huge explosions, and that much gunplay, and also this
movie proves that so much of a story can develop within a five mile
radius, if not that big, and show you just how intense human drama can
be. James Mason, in one of his best performances ever plays Johnny
McQueen, an IRA member who is hunted by the law. After he is shot his
friends seek help, having to leave him alone, in order to find someone
that will help him. He must run after the cops almost find him. What
ensues is a movie that is not pro-IRA or pro-Britain but an incredible
character-driven movie in a movie you would not expect to find one. The
movie takes place all over the city, as Johnny McQueen and all of those
associated with him have an incredible adventure, not to mention his
love interest. The acting is beyond phenomenal, these actors give these
characters a great amount of depth, and they seem to realize the
backdrop of the conflict at hand, and play the scenario perfectly.
This time does not exist anymore, the conflict of which this movie takes place in might, but fifty years later attitudes, traditions, and conventions of the day have changed a lot. This movie is almost an incredible time capsule, capturing the feeling of the time, and the conflict of the time without telling any names, you know the organization that the movie is talking about but no name is mentioned, and a name really doesn't need to be mentioned. This movie is all around phenomenal, in the message it conveys, and the way it conveys it. Odd Man Out uses this conflict to portray an idea of peace, an idea to stop killing, and to stop violence. In this film the movie lends the conflict to senselessness, by the end of the film the goals of both sides seem like a moot point, and that all that happened as a result of the conflict was a lot of violence, murder, turmoil, and nothing achieved. I cannot say enough that the one key to the success of the film is the acting. James Mason is in top form as the gunman that wonders around the unnamed town, the supporting cast is nothing short of spectacular, the acting makes this movie.
By some critics this was called the best British movie in the Post World War 2 era, for a number of years. In the immediate years following the war that is hard to debate, odd man out is quite a spectacle, a phenomenal film without question. The movie is so many things: a great character study, a brilliant film exploring man's own problems with it's own kind, a sad movie, a love story, and a movie that exemplifies the way movies should be made, obviously I give this movie a glowing endorsement. Many people say that movies in this time had shallow characters, that were unoriginal, and unrealistic. This movie shows just the opposite, and if you were to watch most mainstream movies today you would find that accusation true of most modern movies, but this movie shows just how strange, and sometimes remarkable we are, and shows very mush, in it's own way how different we are, and I love movies like this where the characters are what make the movie, the plot is important too, but it is the unique and unexpected characters that make this movie so much more than a standard movie, this movie is a classic. This is a movie that is almost mesmerizing, engrossing to the point you almost forget where you are, few movies achieve that, this is definitely an achievement for British cinema, and an achievement for cinema overall.
I felt compelled to respond to a point made by zetes below:
"He delivers a speech from the Bible late in the film, in what I would call the film's least successful scene, but its meaning in the film seemed obscure to me."
The passage, as John Simpson below has pointed out, is from Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, on the supremacy of love. If I have not love, Paul says, I am nothing. In the King James version, however, the word was not love, but charity.
As I remember, McQueen stumbles through Belfast at the mercy of everyone who finds him. Some take advantage of him, others try to help him, but everyone has his own interests at heart. Those who try to help him always change their mind in the end, and send him back out into the street. When McQueen sees the image or ghost of his priest, he asks him, 'What was that you used to tell us? "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."'
Perhaps this is a bit too obvious, but it announces the theme of the film. It's precisely what everyone has lacked. One could object to the fact that McQueen is a terrorist, but Paul (and Jesus) would not acknowledge the question of who deserves and who doesn't deserve this love/charity. It's not selective.
Many years later, Neil Jordan must have had this scene in mind when he filmed "The Crying Game." In an early scene, on the night before they are to execute Jody (Forest Whitaker), Jody asks Fergus (Stephen Rea) to tell him something, anything, to comfort him. Fergus thinks for a bit, and then says, "When I was a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man I put away childish things..." When Jody asks him what that means, Fergus says, "Nothing." Once again, Jody asks him to tell him something, anything at all. Fergus stays silent, unable to think of anything, his eyes welling up with tears. The scene ends with this heartbreaking bit of dialogue:
JODY: Not a lot of use, are you, Fergus? FERGUS: Me? No, I'm not good for much...
They're both excellent films, with an intelligence and emotional honesty one doesn't often see.
One of the most beautifully directed (Carol Reed) and photographed
(Robert Krasker) films I have seen. The story revolves around the
attempts of various citizens of Belfast to either aid, comfort or kill
a wounded revolutionary gunman. A great deal has been written about
this picture, concerning mostly its meaning, and I'm going to
(heretically) skip over these issues and focus instead of why I think
the film works so well as a piece of art rather than try to figure out
what it's saying.
Essentially what Reed and Company have done is create a dark and gloomy urban landscape and made it seductive, even precious to us, by making us care about the people we meet there. Not that these are especially likable people. Many of them aren't, but they're presented fairly and, till near the end, without too much melodrama; and the way they're offered to us, which is to say their environments, vastly warmer and more enticing than the cold night streets the bleeding fugitive is staggering through, create a series of dramatic contrasts between the real world most of us have to move through, and the more imaginative, safer worlds of our homes, where we can retreat to, and imagine we are something else. The wounded Johnny McQueen can afford no such luxury on this bitter night, as each little warm nest offers, for a brief while, a ray of hope that this time he will come in from the cold for good, get warm, rest a little, have his wounds taken care of, and maybe even, if he gets really lucky, find himself a warm bed to sleep in.
Alas, this is not Johnny McQueen's night. Some of the people he encounters treat him decently enough for a while, till they figure out who he is, and then calculation sets in, and selfishness wins out in the end. The film is full of the kind of nocturnal yearnings anyone who has ever lived in a cold city feels as he walks the streets, whether to a pub or train station, home or restaurant, wondering what on earth he is doing out on a night such as this. One goes past this little rowhouse on a sidewalk, or that little walk-down cafe, and looks in the window, sees the people inside, and wishes one were there. Yet cold nights have their pleasures, and even rain has a beauty, as puddles reflect the light of streetlamps and rain-streaked windows make rooms that much more inviting.
Odd Man Out takes these moods, and the musings that accompany them, and raises everything to the max. Johnny isn't merely a man walking down a street, he's a hunted criminal. As we feel as he does, everything comes more intensely into focus than it would normally; as a phone booth can look like the most wonderful place in the world when the snow starts falling. The film makes us see and feel things as we seldom do in normal life, and the result is a kind of compulsive aestheticism that may well be accidental. Anything is or can be beautiful under the right circumstances, and all interior places are inviting when the temperature drops, one hasn't eaten in hours. I suspect that this wasn't the film-makers' intention, that they were hunting bigger game, looking for larger meanings, and the trappings of their picture were intended perhaps as incidental pleasures, or maybe not as pleasures at all. But it is precisely these things,--the visual tropes, not the philosophical and theological underpinnings--that I find most interesting and gratifying about the movie. In the end films have their own meaning, and this one makes me more attentive to the smaller things in life rather than the larger issues; to snow, rain, beer, to boots and overcoats, to the thin white blankets of snow that drape cities on winter nights.
This is the film that brought James Mason to the attention of Hollywood. His Bravura performance as a wounded IRA leader hunted by the police, & various others for good & evil purposes Is of award caliber. Carol Reed`s direction is further proof a what a master director should be, This was one of the best movies of 1947 & I think it is one of the best movies of all time. The Oscar went to Gentlemans Agreement in 1947 a good film but does not compare to this or Great Expectations, also a 1947 release.
James Mason gives the performance of a lifetime as a dying
There's little I can say to add to others' description of the movie except for a few historical notes:
The city _is_ Belfast. It was shot on the streets - according to my Grandfather most outside scenes had huge audiences. The Bar which McQueen ends up in is the Crown Bar, on Great Victoria Street. The exterior of the actual bar is seen although a replica of the inside is seen. This is an architecturally beautiful bar and well worth a visit!
Mason wins the viewers' pity for a dying rebel. Remember, this is the 'old' IRA and not the latter-day thugs we are familiar with. From the outset you feel sympathy for the man and this increases as you are taken through the last hours of his life.
It is hard to get on video, though BBC2 (UK) usually shows it round Christmas. Set your video!
The settings and photography of this film are absolutely outstanding, Johnny's hiding place, Shell's odd room full of canaries, the elaborate Victorian tavern,the snow covering Johnny as he lies unconscious. I love the Third Man but this is by far my favorite Carol Reed production. It is slow and contemplative and transforms essential theological and philosophical concepts into visual media. It is strange and almost at times hallucinatory, but after all Johnny is often hallucinating in his pain and fever and this dreamlike quality is quite appropriate -- the slow thoughts of a man before he dies, as he tries to figure out what it was about and where he may be going. Reed does so much with film without dialog -- his close-ups of faces, his soft, dark streets and odd angles turn very difficult concepts and feelings into a visual masterpiece. I am always surprised to see how little commentary, what short shrift this excellent film is given
Very unusual film, this. Haunting. I'm not a big fan of James Mason but
he is excellent in this.
An unnamed organisation (the IRA) in an unnamed Norhern Irish city (Belfast) carry out an armed robbery that goes wrong. Johnny ends up shot, dying and on the run. The movie tracks the multiple stalking of this wounded, dying creature. Everyone wants a piece of him for different reasons.
Why the IRA and Belfast aren't named I don't know - perhaps the politics of the time caused this.
Some aspects of the movie have dated somewhat, but much of it remains gripping and fascinating.
Harold Pinter refers to it constantly in his play Old Times and you can imagine that a young Pinter would have been influenced by this movie.
Check this one out, for sure.
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