Odd Man Out
Time Out says
Tue Aug 29 2006The telling opening preamble to ‘Odd Man Out’ – Carol Reed’s first great postwar film – stresses that it’s the ‘conflict in the hearts of the people’ that most concerns the director – and not the specifics of the ‘struggle between the law and an illegal organisation’. Which is just as well, as barely any mention is made throughout this fantastic, thoughtful and stunningly photographed thriller of the exact beliefs and motives of James Mason’s fugitive IRA chief Johnny McQueen and the various characters he meets during one dark night of the soul on the run from the police in Belfast. Ultimately, the IRA element is but a catalyst for a subtle, near-metaphysical portrait of a proud man slipping ever deeper into oblivion as the imposing night-time city threatens to engulf him.
McQueen is a character in crisis. Six months after escaping from jail, he dares to venture outside again – against all advice. His first foray outdoors is to take part in a robbery that goes wrong, leaving him with the threat of a murder charge and abandoned, alone in the city and wounded from a bullet in his shoulder. He hides out in bomb shelters; takes refuge in the back of a cab; and is smuggled into the snug of a rowdy, imposing pub. McQueen becomes more and more passive as a merry dance escalates around him, with more and more characters taking interest (or not) in his fate, until we reach a dilapidated house of fools on the edge of the city – inhabited by a shabby birdman and a bullish painter. This is a delusional McQueen’s last supper, and by now we’re far away from the thriller tendencies of the film’s opening and instead deep into more personal, contemplative, purgatorial territory. A fascinating supporting cast, from McQueen’s worried comrades and girlfriend to two caring former ARP wardens, and a rousing score by William Alwyn add brio to Mason’s fascinating performance. Well worth visiting, not least for its similarities to ‘The Third Man’.
Author: Dave Calhoun
Fri Sep 1, 2006