A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
Johnny McQueen, leader of a clandestine Irish organization, has been hiding in the house of Kathleen and her mother, planning a hold-up that will provide his group with the funds needed to continue its activities. During the hold-up, things go sour: Johnny is wounded, cannot make it back to the hideout, and disappears in the back-alleys of Belfast. Immediately, a large-scale man-hunt is launched, and the city is tightly covered by the constabulary, whose chief is intent on capturing Johnny and the other members of the gang. Kathleen sets out in search of Johnny. Written by
Eduardo Casais <email@example.com>
James Mason called this his best performance of his career, and his favourite Carol Reed film. See more »
When Johnny's three friends are fleeing the police, they run into a little square with a grocer's shop. The shop and the windows above it are lit up. As they run past it, a blind in the left-hand upper window is pulled down. Later, when Dennis tries to draw the police away from Johnny, he runs past the same shop. It can be seen that the blind is now back up again. See more »
[about painting a portrait of the wounded Johnny McQueen]
There's something to be said about him before he dies.
And about all of us.
I understand what I see in him.
What is it?
It's the truth about us all.
Is that all?
So are we all.
See more »
Opening credits prologue: This story is told against a background of political unrest in a city of Northern Ireland.
It is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved. See more »
Johnny McQueen is an IRA leader who breaks out of prison and for 6 months hides out at the house of adoring Kathleen. Here he plots a robbery of a Belfast mill to fund his underground organisation, the robbery doesn't go to plan and Johnny kills a man in a struggle outside the mill, he himself is shot and fails to make the getaway with his accomplices...
If ever there was a film that defines the statement of film on canvass then this is it, it's a gorgeous piece of work relying on striking imagery and dialogue driven smartness to realise the demise of Johnny McQueen. We watch (and listen intensely) as Johnny lurches through the back streets of Belfast knowing he is dying, he has most of the city looking for him, be it the law, or friends, or those that want to cash in on him, his destiny is not so much carved in stone, but more like written in blood in the snow.
The amazing feeling I got with this film is that I felt like I was dying as well, and I think that is one of the film's great strengths, director Carol Reed and cinematographer Robert Krasker put you into the mindset of McQueen, the doom hangs heavy, the distortion and hallucinogenic free fall for the last reel hangs heavy on the viewer, it's a stifling masterclass. Some of the shots are beautiful, especially once the snow starts to fall to accentuate the Victorian backdrops, but consistently we also get moist and misty cobbled streets lit by gas lamps, providing moody shadows of humans and buildings alike. While Krasker offers up his photographic atmospherics, Reed excels with scenes such as portraits forming together in front of McQueen, or faces appearing in spilled beer bubbles; images wrung out of McQueen's feverish mind.
James Mason as Mcqueen is brilliant, and yet he doesn't get long periods of dialogue here, the script doesn't call for it, yet the performance is simply wonderful, with just one look of desperation Mason acts out of the top draw. There are a number of great characters in the film, like borderline insane artist Lukey (a bountiful turn from Robert Newton), or bum for a pound Shell (F.J. McCormick), no character is merely a walk on part, they all add weight to this clinically structured piece of work. The score by William Alwyn is right on the money and integral to realising the film's thematic heart, and the ending is noir nirvana, it took me 5 minutes to digest it fully during the close credits. A haunting and poetic piece of work, that rare old beast that is bleakly beautiful. 9/10
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