Odd Man Out (1947)
Odd Man Out is a 1947 British Film Noir starring James Mason and directed by Carol Reed who would later go on to direct one of the all time greats of the genre, The Third Man.
The film is set in an unnamed city in Northern Ireland and tells the story of Jimmy who has recently escaped from prison and his holed with fellow members of 'The Organisation' as they plan a bank robbery. It doesn't take a genius to work out 'The Organisation' is supposed to be the IRA, but the film is not interested in the politics that a story based upon that could provide, it's only interested in the characters and how they react to the situation that is presented in this particular story. It even lays that out in a short passage that is shown at the end of the opening titles.
"This story is told against a background of political unrest in a city of Northern Ireland. It is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved."
Unsurprisingly the robbery goes wrong and after a tussle with man which results in Jimmy shooting him, and being injured himself, he then falls from the getaway car and is left by his colleagues who see him run away as they escape with the money. What we get over the next 90 minutes is a wounded Jimmy stumbling through the night, lurching from one place to the next as the Police launch a manhunt to track him down. At the same time Jimmy's girl is sneaking round the city trying to find him and also organise his escape via a boat at the docks.
The film basically boils down to a series of character interactions between Jimmy and various people who are all aware of who Jimmy is and what he has done. Some are trying to help, some want him moved along as soon as possible while others plan to use Jimmy for their own personal gain.
This is really good film that I thoroughly enjoyed. All the cast are great and do a good job of making memorable characters rather than what we get a lot of nowadays with big stars just putting in the same performance rather than creating an individual charachter that fits the story. James Mason is great, especially as he spends the majority of the film incapacitated but he does a really good job in conveying his injury and predicament.
Carol Reed's direction and staging of scenes is great and he also does a great job of bringing the city itself to life. Simple things like the changing weather as we go deeper in to the night, the tolling of the bell in the clock tower as we draw nearer to the escape ships departure, but one of my favourites is something really simple that just adds that extra little nice touch to what can sometimes be a restricted soundstage based set. Jimmy is being hidden inside a junk yard. The snow is falling and its a simple shot of the enterance to the junk yard. You can see a painted background of the night sky, a fence and then the enterance. But then there is a little whistle and we see a plume of smoke appearing from beyond the fence travelling from left to right. There's no reason for it to be there but just adds a little touch and creates depth and to what could look like a flat and boring set.
We get the usual use of light and darkness to create beautiful shadows as you get with all film noir but the added use of snow really gives the film a nice extra visual touch.
I'd really recommend this movie if you're a fan of film noir, older films or just good cinema in general. It's currently available in Blu Ray in both a Criterion release if you're Region A and Network Releasing if you're Region B.