Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Writer: Lesser Samuels and Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cinematographer: Milton R. Krasner
by Jon Cvack
This one of those films that makes you cringe for in any way admiring yesteryear. The movie I could best compare it to is Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), proving cinema's ability capture moments and ideas within a particular time, demonstrating to anyone who either refuses to think things were never all that bad or haven’t got much better, that they have no idea what they’re talking about. Like Gentleman’s Agreement, No Way Out leaves you in awe at the prodigious level of racism, ubiquitous only half a century ago. Released fourteen years before the Civil Rights Act and you can bet this movie had an influence.
Sidney Poitier gives an amazing performance as Doctor Brooks, who’s willing to risk his entire career in order to vindicate himself against a murder accusation from two white and racist criminals admitted to the hospital, one of whom dies. As usual, Poitier commands every scene and situation. Similar to In the Heat of the Night, even when dealing with the slightest injustice Poitier embodies all of the anger and frustration against a bigoted system and fully asserts himself, no matter the risk. I don’t think any other actor has been able to so physically express the frustrations of an entire community. It’s no wonder that all those who might have been too afraid or too anxious to assert themselves while their boss or neighbor passively or directly espoused their bigotry, hoping to speaking up and fearing what would happen, found a hero in Poitier, who demonstrated that no matter the consequence, standing up for yourself is worth it. The man provided a voice to the voiceless.
The sad thing is I’m sure similar situations still happen today. Whether Muslim, woman, black, atheist, gay, mentally ill, etcetera, there are still those who are willing to doubt a person’s skill and prowess based on irrelevant superficialities. No Way Out demonstrates that asserting yourself is far beyond the individual. To think of all those who might have seen the movie and enrolled in medical school, ready to fight for their place in a bigoted system makes me realize how important this movie is and was. It is a movie serving the highest function - to change a broken and unjust system.
BELOW: Watch some of the film
Thoughts on films, old and new
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