The Offence (Sidney Lumet, 1972)

Sean Connery is one of the most renowned British actors of all time. He has starred in so many well regarded and successful films, including The Hunt For Red October, The Untouchables and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He is, of course, remembered most fondly for his performance as the quintessential James Bond, starting with Dr No in 1962 and finishing with Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. He also reprised Bond in 1983 with Never Say Never Again. 

His prominent films remain prominent and he will be remembered for these great successes. That said, unless you go out of your way to seek his wider body of work, it’s quite difficult to build up a fuller idea of his talents.

Fortunately, Masters of Cinema are on hand to help us out a little, pointing us in the direction of The Offence, Sidney Lumet’s cross-section of Detective-Sergeant Johnson (Connery) and his struggle to cope with the inner demons he has as a result of the constant horrors he sees in his line of work. Released in 1972, it was one of the earliest post-Bond films he released so was one of his first chances to show the world his full gamut of talents.

The film opens with a bold slow-motion shot of policemen rushing into an interrogation room, where we find Johnson fighting off his colleagues, with the dead beaten body of Kenneth Baxter (Ian Bannen) lying on the floor. Evidently Johnson has killed Baxter and through a series of flashbacks we discover the chain of events that lead to this happening.

This is an excellent performance from Connery, adding weight to a character that has been carefully constructed by screenwriter John Hopkins. The story is told in a non-linear way, which is cleverly executed to ensure the reveals happen at regular intervals. Bannen’s performance kept me second-guessing throughout and ensured it wasn’t just a one-man-show. It’s a stylish and grim view of Britain in the 1970s and it hits home further by being so realistic, which I credit to director Sidney Lumet and his work with cinematographer Gerry Fisher.

It’s a film that warrants a first and indeed second viewing. The latter will undoubtedly come before long. I’ll be devouring the bountiful array of extras first.

The Offence is available on Master of Cinema dual-format Blu-ray and DVD now.

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