Stanley Kramer directs Sidney Poitier, Tony Curtis and Cara Williams in this race drama where two prisoners, one black and one white, are shackled together and on the lam.
The ultimate solidarity movie. After they set aside their prejudice, the pair realise their struggle, present and existential, is shared and decide not to abandon each other. Tony Curtis is a little miscast as a gutter brute but does solid work. Poitier is something else. Man wasn’t no flash in the pan. Must have been fascinating for him to navigate being the big screen voice of controlled black outrage for audiences of all colours at this precise point in American history. You feel him making silent decisions both as a capable but desperate character but also as a consummate actor in every moment here. The set pieces are strong… the interlude with the deserted farmer’s wife and her child is sensational. The atmosphere of the entire film is amped up by Kramer’s choice to make all the music diegetic. Proto-buddy movie, sweaty thriller, brave statement. The Defiant Ones holds up incredibly well.
Perfect Double Bill: In The Heat Of the Night (1967)
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