theriverjordan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz didn’t just know how to make the most of an established Hollywood legend. He also discovered one of the greatest stars of all time - Sidney Poitier.
“No Way Out” was Poitier’s feature film debut - a role he won out of a lineup of unknowns, after lying to Mankiewicz that he was 27-years-old, instead of his actual age of 22. “No Way Out” launched Poitier’s historic career, but didn’t stop him from being sent back to high school - playing a teenager five years later (when he was actually 27) in “Blackboard Jungle.”
“No Way Out” sees Poitier emerge as a fully formed star - already possessing the grace and courage he has carried through his entire filmography. The movie sees him as a young doctor, falsely wrapped up in a murder accusation by a racist shooting victim whose life he saved.
Mankiewicz is unflinching with depicting the disgusting verbal and physical violence directed towards Poitier’s character. Richard Widmark as the primary aggressor was apparently so horrified by what the script called on him to sling, that he apologised profusely to Poitier after many of their takes.
“No Way Out” is solid proof that cinema has always had the capacity, and the talent, to realize socially relevant stories. There is little excuse for the racism of ‘old films,’ when “No Way Out” demonstrated that such sentiments never had a place in the heart, or the art, of the truly progressive and accepting.
To give “No Way Out” a context in time — Disney’s “Song of the South” released just four years before. And - it would go on to be re-released six years after “No Way Out,” in 1956. As for Poitier — he would would spend the large part of his first 20 years in cinema playing the singular representation of the might of dignity against the seemingly endless tides of hateful racist aggressors.