Starring: James Mason, Robert Newton, Cyril Cusack
Director: Carol Reed
Running Time: 116 mins
Odd Man Out is a British film about an Irish nationalist who attempts to evade police capture after being wounded in a botched robbery in Belfast.
While Odd Man Out isn’t the world’s most exhilarating or intense thriller, it offers up a gripping story with a unique focus on the vulnerability of its protagonist, brilliantly played by James Mason in his pre-Hollywood career.
Director Carol Reed (who later went on to make The Third Man) is famed for well-crafted, atmospheric thrillers, rather than rollercoasters which play out at breakneck speed. That’s very much the case with Odd Man Out, and although that approach does at times hurt the film’s flow, it means that the film is a thriller which really stands out from the crowd.
More than just a cat-and-mouse chase between the police and a robber on the run, Odd Man Out brings us an impressively intimate portrayal of an anti-hero in James Mason, looking far more at the character’s vulnerabilities than merely painting him as a villain in a world of good and evil.
While the film gets off to a slow start, its real appeal comes after a botched robbery, in which James Mason is wounded by gunshot, and then ends up alone on the streets of Belfast with police hunting him down across the city.
Cold, disoriented and bleeding heavily, Mason’s plight is a gripping one from the start, and the amount of time you spend with him in dark, dim shelters and the isolated city streets at night means that you’re really able to empathise with him as he tries to evade the police.
Coupled with a chaotic rescue effort by his colleagues, this film really gets to the crux of what happens when robberies go wrong, and offers a striking and genuinely fascinating insight on how vulnerable those often purely painted as criminals can be.
That vulnerability is what makes Odd Man Out such a great watch at times, and although the film may lack an intensity and paranoia that could have made Mason’s plight more urgent, the fact that he’s always on edge, almost dying while still trying to keep away from prying eyes makes this far more than your average thriller.
Odd Man Out doesn’t necessarily feature the thrilling and dynamic cinematography of The Third Man, nor is it ever as eerie, but there’s no denying that Reed’s fingerprints are all over the film, particularly in its quietest moments as we see Mason out on the deserted streets of Belfast.
Overall, then, I enjoyed Odd Man Out for the most part. Although not a thriller to get you on the edge of your seat, it’s an engaging film with a gripping view of the vulnerability of its main character. Coupled with a strong atmosphere and a great lead performance from James Mason, it’s an impressive watch, which is why I’m giving it a 7.4.