Starring: Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier, Warren Oates
Director: Norman Jewison
Running Time: 109 mins
In The Heat Of The Night is an American film about a black police officer from Philadelphia who is enlisted by the police force of a racist Southern town to investigate a murder, however his ethnicity causes tensions and difficulties between himself and the locals he’s trying to help.
This is a really intriguing, entertaining and telling film. It’s got a great mystery story that can captivate you on its own, being pretty much unpredictable right up until the thrilling climax, however the added bonus of this film is that it also tells a story about racism in the Deep South, and how insane it all is from the perspective of a black Northerner, which was particularly fascinating.
I’ve got to start however, with the two great main performances by Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. The two guys have got such great chemistry on screen, and really fit their characters well. Poitier does an excellent job of providing the brains and common sense to a bizarre setting in some respects, while Steiger is very convincing in his character’s attempts to not think about the colour of his fellow police officer’s skin at all, and just get on with what’s important, solving a murder mystery.
And that’s where the entertainment comes in in this film, the mystery. As I said, it’s a perfectly strong plot on its own, and it does fully engross you from start to finish, often taking the centre stage from the issue of racism, which is when you have the opportunity to be really excited and intrigued in what is simply a well-put together and unpredictable mystery.
However, what is most impressive about this is how it deals with the theme of racism in the Deep South. Obviously, looking back on it now, the whole thing just seems totally ludicrous, however the way that this film’s story immerses you so much makes it feel very real, and therefore all the more impacting and disgusting. What’s more is that you feel genuinely offended because you’re so connected with Sidney Poitier’s character, and particularly when he is targeted by people he’s just trying to help, it’s horrible.
So, overall, this gets an 8.1, because it’s an absolutely fascinating, engrossing and important film that captivates you from beginning to end.