Saturday, March 5, 2011

Odd Man Out (1947)

Directed by Carol Reed.
Starring James Mason and Robert Newton.
In a Nutshell: A wounded revolutionary disappears into the city, evading a manhunt.

The potential hotbed of political posturing and outlandish plot trappings quickly evaporates from one’s viewing of Odd Man Out. Before Carol Reed transformed Vienna’s war scars into an expressionist dreamscape, there was Ireland’s Belfast. Shot by Robert Krasker (also of Third Man status), the streets become a twilight-lit purgatory for its wounded protagonist. Johnny McQueen (James Mason), a notorious leader of the Irish Republican Army, is left dying at the scene of a botched robbery turned accidental murder. He struggles for catharsis and escape, rubbing up against urchins, vengeful authoritative types and a trio of the eccentric-destitute. It makes a surreal journey, not just from Johnny’s slowly ebbing life, but his disorientating exposure to the world above, heightened through baroque angles and lighting. Framed within an opposing neorealism, ally Kathleen (Kathleen Ryan) keeps a cool head as she scrapes together a future for her love; fate looms ominous.

One point of interest: the IRA and Belfast are never called by name, most likely to sidestep any overt politicizing. If there is any drawback, it over-generalizes the machinations of Johnny and Kathleen. Their emotion is broadcast in sight and sound, but overall both remain too enigmatic for a narrative hinging on redemption. In that respect, the attention to subsidiary characters can feel like a grope for “meaning” with allegorical figureheads in place of realism. Still, all the more accolades for Reed and Krasker, whose work transcends the material with a visual, poetic aura. The audience feels Johnny’s debilitation beyond the physical and earthly strife, even if they cannot speak it. It stands a film of beautiful, sensory experience, in its purest form.


  1. I know this makes me sound kind of dumb, but it actually amazes me that they made movies in 1947. I mean, I just watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and it seems dated...

    I suspect that the ones you watch hold up better.

    Oh hey I know I'm late but congrats on getting 52 posts in 2010! I'm gonna try that for 2011...

  2. Thanks! Though this will be my last review for a little while as writing these have been taking time away from other things.

    If you are interested, the 40's were a terrific decade for film noir (all that war-torn angst and such).