The Defiant Ones (1958)
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A lot better than I was expecting (for some reason). It's gritty, it's exciting and it's really well-acted. Poitier, in particular, blew me away here.
amazing movie with brilliant performances especially Poitier.
The Defiant Ones are Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier (in his first above-the-title credit), playing escaped criminals chained together, on the run from the authorities in rural Southern U.S. As a straight-up fugitive movie, while I've since seen the "chained together" trope, I don't remember seeing it so well realized. The actors do a fair bit of their stunts, and the journey looks really difficult and dangerous in their situation. Things are further complicated by racism, Curtis and Poitier bristling with anger and resentment at being stuck to the other. If you want to see a metaphor for America in this, you certainly can. Curtis is a bootstraps kind of guy - white conservative America - who hates being saddled with a black man who "doesn't know his place" - the civil rights movement that, in 1958, was on the rise. The film dips in the third act with the introduction of a woman entirely too keen to get with Curtis - her motivations are murky and her character detestable - but it's not much of a dip. And you can count on cutaways to the police force for light comic relief and relieve the tension (comic, but never incompetent, just real, and that's a subtle high wire act).
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In 7 official lists
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This movie ranks #23 in Golden Globe Best Picture Winners
This movie ranks #52 in Academy Award Best Cinematography
This movie ranks #55 in AFI's 100 years...100 cheers
This movie ranks #216 in Academy Award Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #220 in The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made
This movie ranks #327 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #767 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown