Hailed for its sensitive treatment of a difficult subject, "Odd Man Out" is a tale of ordinary people trapped in the web of Northern Ireland's troubles. Irish rebel Johnny McQueen (James Mason), maimed and bleeding, weaves an escape route through Belfast's seedy underground while each of his comrades falls prey to bounty hunters and police in director Carol Reed's (The Third Man) classic film noir.
is a term usually associated with American films of the 1940s and 1950s, but this British classic from 1947 fits the definition in almost every respect. It's one of the milestone films of its era, highlighted by what is arguably the best performance in the illustrious career of James Mason, here playing the leader of an underground Irish rebel organization who is seriously wounded when a payroll heist goes sour. Left for dead by his accomplices on the streets of Belfast, he's forced to hide wherever he can find shelter and refuge, and as his gunshot wound gradually drains his life away, his lover (Kathleen Ryan) struggles to locate him before it's too late. Although the IRA and Belfast are never mentioned by name, this film was a daring and morally complex examination of Northern Ireland's "troubles," and its compelling tragedy hasn't lost any of its impact. A study of conscience in crisis and the bitter aftermath of terrorism, this was one of the first films to address IRA activities on intimately human terms. Political potency is there for those who seek it, but the film is equally invigorating as a riveting story of a tragic figure on the run from the law, forced to confront the wrath of his own beliefs in the last hours of his life. It was this brilliant, unforgettable film that established the directorial prowess of Carol Reed, whose next two films (The Fallen Idol
and The Third Man
) were equally extraordinary. --Jeff Shannon