Carol Reed’s The Third Man is seen as his masterpiece, with Odd Man Out always coming second. However, this Belfast set thriller from 1947 is far from an ‘also ran’ – it’s visually impressive, filled with great performances and well worth your time.
Odd Man Out stars James Mason as Jimmy McQueen, the head of the ‘Organization’ in Belfast (a thinly veiled IRA). Jimmy is the most wanted man in the city, having just broken out of prison – he has become a villain to some and a folk hero to others. The film opens with Jimmy planning a robbery with his gang; however, things don’t go to plan and an injured Jimmy is left roaming the snowy streets of Belfast, avoiding the police, and trying to make it back to his girlfriend, Kathleen (Kathleen Ryan). Throughout his journey he meets a variety of different characters, all of whom see him as something different in their lives – Jimmy is the Odd Man Out.
I have some personal attachment to Odd Man Out, having lived in Belfast for six years. I have great affection for the city and I’ve seen it grow and change over the last decade. Reed’s film, released in 1947 shows Belfast post-war and pre-‘Troubles’, a time of innocence, and he was thinking outside the box when he decided to shot a Film Noir in Northern Ireland. Odd Man Out could have been set in any city; London, New York, Chicago, but setting it in Belfast adds something else, a grittiness, yet a beauty that has rarely been captured on film.
Mason is English, and most of the cast of Odd Man Out hailed from Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, so there is hardly a Northern Irish accent present in the film, but that’s not too distracting, the menagerie of characters and Robert Krasker’s cinematography mean that you don’t look at the small details in film you look at the big picture.