Sunday, January 11, 2009

ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW (Robert Wise, 1959, USA) Robert Wise delivers a taught crime thriller about three losers trying one last desperate bank robbery that will enable them to retire and give up their criminal ways. Wise films with his classic deep focus black & white style with low-angle shots and steady camera movements; no quick cut headache-inducing editing here! The story progresses chronologically as we glimpse the personal turmoil in Johnny (Harry Belafonte) and Earle’s (Robert Ryan) hard-luck lives. We develop sympathy for these two criminals even though we see them warts and all; it gets us closer because they are well defined and realistic people. Burke (Ed Begley) is the ringleader who plays mediator because Johnny and Earle just can’t get along…and herein lays the meaning of the film: Racism. The film works as a simple heist movie gone bad but that’s not its true purpose; this film explores society’s bleak hateful racist attitudes of the 1950s and their destructive effects, both psychologically and physically. The tragic ending brings equality to our anti-heroes and they have no one to blame but themselves. Robert Wise bookends the film with a strong wind blowing across a dirty puddle creating ripples and riptides much like the violent undercurrents tearing through America at the time. If our attitudes don’t change then the odds against tomorrow happening are not in our favor. It’s still true today. (A)

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