Back in 1972 Sean Connery wanted to get as far away from James Bond as he possibly could. He was lured back to the character for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever but part of his (then) record-breaking payday was the stipulation that United Artists produce a film of his choosing. Connery selected The Offence, a dark and gritting drama that hits as hard today as it did when it was first released. It really goes to show the lengths that UA was willing to go to in order to secure Connery for his final (official) Bond outing. The Offence was a financial failure on its initial release but that’s likely because audiences couldn’t stomach the film’s look at child molestation and murder. It’s difficult to tackle this today in mainstream cinema but was unheard of nearly 50 years ago.
Sidney Lumet’s dark and un-redeeming film is a psychological thriller that focuses on Sean Connery’s Johnson, a police detective tracking a child killer. He arrests a suspect (Ian Bannen) who he believes is guilty and he’ll stop at nothing in his attempt to get a confession. Twenty years on the job have deeply affected Johnson and he’s a broken man filled with anger and rage. This bubbles to the surface in the interrogation room and Johnson must face the consequences.
Sean Connery was one of the biggest movie stars in the world in 1972 and he flew against this in a spectacular fashion when he made The Offence. Connery was only in his early 40s when he made the film but he looks much older and weather beaten. He ditched his toupee for the first time and embraced every unflattering facet of his character in a way that shows an eagerness to shake-off his screen persona. Many actors have tried to subvert their movie star looks but they usually tackle this on a superficial level. Connery looks within, building on emotion and rage to deliver a character who is almost devoid of redeeming qualities. He may be on the right side of the law, but he’s on the wrong side of humanity.
The Offence is based on John Hopkins’ play This Story of Yours and while the film might be a character driven piece, it doesn’t feel ‘stagey’. Sidney Lumet shoots and edits the film with a visual flair but he doesn’t over shadow the acting. He’s a director who knows that captivating acting is as cinematic as flash camera work. Lumet was a master at delivering heavy stories, carving one of the finest directorial careers in Hollywood history. Lumet was a director who could always get an intense performance from Connery and he was the closeset thing that the actor ever had to a cinematic partner. The pair had previously worked on The Hill (also with Ian Bannen) and The Anderson Tapes and they would also go on to make Family Business together.
A breathtaking look into the human psyche, The Offence is a hard-hitting drama with a fearless and raw turn from Sean Connery. The Scottish star gives the performance of his career here, digging deep to uncover a character that few actors would have the range or inclination to play.
Masters Of Cinema gives The Offence the release it deserves. A wonderful 1080p presentation is augmented with an isolated music score and interviews with assistant art director Chris Burke, composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle and costume designer Evangeline Harrison. This also comes with an interview with Christopher Morahan, who directed John Hopkins’ original play, a trailer and a booklet. It might be missing Sean Connery’s input but that’s no surprise given his retirement.