8 September 2004 | The_Void
One of cinema's finest achievements
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.