There was once a futuristic film where prison escapees had to remain within 100 yards of each other or their matching neck bands would explode. So imagine escaping from a 1950's Deep South work gang literally chained at the wrist to someone you loathe. That's what happened to black Noah Cullen (Poitier) and bigoted white auto mechanic Joker Jackson (Curtis) in Stanley Kramer's 1958 Best Screenplay, “The Defiant Ones.”
To survive, each must adapt to the other and work as a team. Joker is superb as the acerbic bigot who never lets Noah forget his “inferior” status. “You call me that again and I'll kill you." However, Noah remains his usual cool self, more focused on escape than sparring with Joker.
The pair is pursued in storms and heat. In one of their tethered adventures they are nearly hanged by local townsfolk as they attempt to steal food. But the ending is the real heartstopper. They meet a lonely widow who finally breaks their chains. While “the woman” and Joker plan to head east in her car, he learns that she has pointed Joker on a wild goose chase through the deadly swamp. Joker abandons her to rescue Noah from his fate.
With hounds on their trail, the pair races through the swamp towards the nearing train to freedom. Noah just makes it and stretches his arm symbolically and physically to its limit in an attempt to pull the stumbling Joker aboard the accelerating train.
The review of this Movie prepared by Angry Jim Magin