Rediscovered Classic - Odd Man Out

Not to be missed under any circumstances.

Feature by Paul Greenwood | 13 Sep 2006
In an unnamed Irish city, a rebel organisation rob a mill, killing a man in the process. The killer, Johnny McQueen (Mason), wounded and separated from the others, makes his way through the city, trying to survive long enough to find his way home, with the police closing in on him from all sides. Along the way he crosses paths with a collection of sympathisers, informers, profiteers, and those who just want to stay out of trouble. Meanwhile, the woman who loves him (Ryan) makes her own perilous trek across the city to find him.

Seemingly his warm up for 'The Third Man' two years later, Carol Reed takes the standard man-on-the-run thriller and bathes it in shadow and noir sensibilities to create a stunningly shot, remarkably tense film that belies its age at every turn. There's a level of realism barely seen in its day, and a naturalism to the acting - and alll this while Ken Loach was still out doing his paper round - as well as some surprisingly raw violence.

But it's not a political film. "IRA" is never uttered and Reed doesn't encourage us to take sides - the rebels aren't saints and the police are even handed. In a cheaper, more manipulative (American?) film, Johnny would have been a martyr and the authorities jack-booted villains. Instead of a cause, it's about humanity and love and the things we're trying to stay alive for, about men and women trying to get by in life with their own little dreams intact, and how cruelly and easily those dreams are snatched away.

Good enough to close this year's Edinburgh Film Festival, and good enough to stand alongside any film of the last sixty years, 'Odd Man Out' should not be missed under any circumstances.
Dir: Carol Reed
Stars: James Mason, Robert Newton, Kathleen Ryan
Release Date: September 1st
Cert: PG