The Defiant Ones (1958) Review

(Left)Tony Curtis, (Right) Sidney Poitier

The Defiant Ones star Sidney Poitier as Noah Cullen and Tony Curtis as John “Joker” Jackson. Cullen and Joker are two escaped prisoners who are chained together and must learn to depend on one another. The film tackles the subject of racial prejudice and crafts a thrilling and heart-warming tale around these two characters and their adventure.

Poitier and Curtis both deliver fantastic performances. You feel the bond between Cullen and Joker grow over the course of the story, and it’s really touching. Director Stanley Kramer delivered an incredible adventure story, and this is easily one of his best films. Kramer often used films to deliver a message on social issues, and this film is no different. Here, he finds the perfect balance between social commentary and adventure. Both characters feel real and human, and that’s what makes this story work. The idea of having our main characters chained together might seem a bit forced, but Kramer makes it work, and it’s a masterpiece.

There are supporting characters like Theodore Bikel (Sheriff Muller) and
Charles McGraw (Captain Gibbons), and they are all good in their roles. However, this is clearly Poitier and Curtis’ movie. They take up the bulk of the screentime and give it everything they’ve got. Thankfully, the Academy gave them the much-deserved recognition at the Oscars, with both being nominated for Best Actor.

I highly recommend The Defiant Ones. It’s a film that I feel everyone would benefit from watching. It’s the type of movie I love. There’s a sense of adventure and tension, but it also has something to say (It won Best Original Screenplay). The film sticks with you long after you’ve watched it and leaves you with a sense of clarity. Humans aren’t perfect, but there’s a chance that we can change as long as we work together.

The Defiant Ones is currently streaming on Prime Video.

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