Odd Man Out

Cert PG

The documentary vividness that Carol Reed brought to the streets of Vienna in The Third Man and London in The Fallen Idol, he here brings to Belfast in this fascinating but imperfect 1947 thriller, presented as part of the Reed retrospective at London's National Film Theatre. It's about an IRA man called Johnny McQueen on the run, played - a little cerebrally - by James Mason. The movie reflects Belfast's forgotten identity as a bustling, prosperous provincial city, not obviously shattered by sectarianism or terrorism: a city in which a packed tram can head for the Falls Road, without any visible sense of fear. Mason plays the Republican chief and recent prison escapee who has been holed up in a safe house with the curtains drawn for months; he nevertheless insists on personally leading a bank robbery, and loses his cool because the daylight and the crowds disorientate him. The debacle of the bank job is a terrific opening sequence, and there is a lively Dickensian parade of characters, including a local chancer who finds McQueen and hopes to negotiate an unofficial reward from the Republicans through the local priest.

But Robert Newton's cameo as a crazy artist is strained, and among the genteel stage-Irish accents, only the street urchins actually sound as if they're from Belfast.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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