Odd Man Out ★★★★½

Remarkably mature and gripping British thriller -- a clear forerunner to the director's The Third Man -- follows an IRA leader (James Mason) who becomes a silently suffering Christlike figure after a robbery attempt ends in outright disaster. The tone is uneven (deliberately, it would seem) but all of the characters are vividly eccentric, and mostly believable, hard-boiled noir creations, and the emotions are palpable well past the allegorical (political and religious) content, which sets it well apart from Ford's somewhat similar, far more simplistic The Informer. Everyone is firing on all cylinders: Mason is a low-key wonder, R.C. Sherriff's script is deeply intelligent, the score by William Alwyn expands the scope to the level of an epic drama, and Reed and cinematographer Robert Krasker's staging and photography are chillingly beautiful and enveloping. It feels for all the world like a modern film, in the best sense of the term. The only serious flaw is that the third act spins a bit out of control and loses the thread, especially with the entrance of a few overly broad -- if still compelling -- side characters, led by Robert Newton's unruly painter; but the unorthodox finale brings us back around.

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