No Way Out

No Way Out 
 
(Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
 
Rating: 5/5 
 
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster 
 
Summary: Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s riveting race relations thriller No Way Out is a painful, but rewarding, watch and a must on Masters of Cinema Blu-ray. 
 
Films of the 1950s are very rarely as shocking, scary or revelatory today as they were in their time but Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s still is just that. It may well have intensified over years of (mostly) positive social change as well. 
 
It stars Sidney Poitier as a black doctor, Luther Brooks. He’s pushed his way through oppression to get where as the first African-American doctor at the urban county hospital at which he trained. One night, two convicts come in fresh from an attempted robbery - both with gunshot wounds. Johnny (Dick Paxton) and Ray Biddle (Richard Widmark) are brothers and white. 
 
 
Ray hurls racist abuse at Luther the moment he meets him. Then it gets worse. Johnny dies and Ray sees it as Luther getting revenge. It sets off a wildfire of racism and suspicion that threatens to derail Luther’s vulnerable career and also ignite a war on the streets.
 
Lesser Samuels’ script has got bite, grit and real-world experience. We believe the domino effect could, and probably has, happened. (Samuels would go on to write Billy Wilder’s somewhat similar media circus drama Ace in the Hole the following year.)
 
You can expect Widmark to be on simmering, sneering form as is his trademark but between Samuels’ take-no-prisoners script and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s lean, noir-drenched direction it feels like he’s dialled it up to 11. Even going on seven decades later, those insults still sting and resonate harshly. It’s debatable that such vicious language would get green-lit today. 
 
 
Poitier is a perfect counter to Widmark’s villain. He’s elegant but with enough fragility and nervousness to make that heartbeat feel like it belongs to a real human being. Joseph L. Mankiewicz expertly curates the fireworks between them as the narrative enters a stomach-churning doom spiral. 
 
No Way Out absolutely still rattles the cage today. In an era in which violence and oppression seems to be coming back with a vengeance, perhaps now is the time to study and learn from the stories told in brave, honourable and searing films like No Way Out. Be sure to pick up the must-have Masters of Cinema Blu-ray that also contains a feature-length, somewhat offbeat, documentary on Joseph L. Mankiewicz as well. 
 
DUAL FORMAT SPECIAL FEATURES:
 
- 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD
 
- LPCM mono soundtrack (Uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
 
- Optional English subtitles
 
- Audio Commentary by film noir historian Eddie Muller
 
- Archival Fox Movietone Newsreels
 
All About Mankiewicz (103 mins) a two part documentary on the legendary director, originally broadcast on French television in 1983
 
- Original theatrical trailer
 
- A collector s booklet featuring a new essay by Glenn Kenny
 
- Reversible Sleeve
 

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