The Biddle brothers, shot while robbing a gas station, are taken to the prison ward of the County Hospital; Ray Biddle, a rabid racist, wants no treatment from black resident Dr. Luther Brooks. When brother John dies while Luther tries to save him, Ray is certain it's murder and becomes obsessed with vengeance. But there are black racists around too, and the situation slides rapidly toward violence.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
After Dr. Brooks retrieves the spinal tap tray from the cabinet and heads back to the ward where Ray and John Biddle are being treated, the shadow of the boom microphone can be briefly seen on the wall upper left on the screen. See more »
Refreshingly uncool - Poitier and Widmark at their very best!
I watched this film soon after having seen the dreadfully stupid (but almost universally praised) American History X. The comparison does not make you very optimistic as far as the development of movies with a social message is concerned.
No Way Out is a very good story about racism - maybe the best ever told on screen. It is mainly set in a hospital, where black and white doctors and nurses - among other things - patch up people who bashed each other's heads in in race riots. Sidney Poitier is a very young, upwardly mobile doctor with high ethic standards, Richard Widmark a nasty, racist piece of "white trash" from Beaver Canal who accuses the black doctor of having killed his brother while under his care. This sounds pretty plain, but the screenplay succeeds in giving the characters real personal traits, and the actors fully live up to their task.
I have never seen Sidney Poitier better than here - and this apparently was his first screen appearance! The young doctor is, on the one hand, angry because of the racially motivated humiliations he has to endure. On the other hand, the accusations of the white bigot really shake him badly. He is having serious doubts about his abilities as a doctor because of it, although he is sure he did the right thing. In my opinion it was very wise to introduce these self doubts which are not race related. It makes of Poitier's character a well intentioned conscientious individual many people without regard of race (or gender or religion or whatever) can relate to.
Richard Widmark as the black doctor's racist adversary gives an equally brilliant performance. We see him here at his slimiest, meanest. He really is pure hate - yet even his character is more than a stereotype. His hate is propelled by an encompassing self pity which is really nauseating! This becomes most evident in the dramatic final scene. "Little Black Simba!", he shouts again and again to the black doctor like a moron, and the stupid taunting gets more and more pathetic. Then, badly wounded, he dissolves into a whimpering bundle and the viewer comes to the conclusion that the worst punishment for that creature consists in just staying alive!
It is my opinion that the ever more persistent culture of coolness will not make the world a better or more desirable place to live in. Therefore I really was delighted to see that No Way Out is refreshingly uncool. It addresses social and philosophical issues in a down to earth way. Unforgettable to me is the conversation between the girl from Beaver Canal, the racist's brother's former wife, and the black servant of a white doctor, the boss of Sidney Poitier's character. The servant tells the girl that in her free time she likes to invite friends and cook elaborate meals for them. That is a lot of work you're doing in your free time, the girl remarks. To this the servant says: I like doing it, and it makes me feel I am somebody. Outdated? Corny? What do I care! The statement is still valid.
It should be noted that No Way Out is not a story of different groups of people pitted against each other but a story about individuals who have to find themselves in society and decide what stand they are taking towards civilisation. The movie states that civilisation and civilised behavior is not something you can take for granted and that it depends on the choice of every single human being.
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