Why The Devil’s Own Is Harrison Ford’s Most Underrated Movie
When it comes to the greatest actors of all-time, Harrison Ford undoubtedly makes the list. While playing the iconic smuggler Han Solo in Star Wars would have secured his place in film history, his portrayal of the hero in the Indiana Jones franchise solidified his status as the definitive face of heroism on the big screen. Ford has brought to life an array of unforgettable characters, including Rick Deckard in the Blade Runner series, Jack Ryan in adaptations of Tom Clancy’s novels The Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and Detective John Book in Witness, which earned him an Academy Award nomination.
Ford’s 1997 film, The Devil’s Own, directed by Alan J. Pakula, may not have received the same acclaim as his other films, but it is equally deserving of praise. The movie, which grossed over $140 million worldwide, tells the story of Irish-American Sergeant Tom O’Meara, played by Ford, who must balance his duties as a police officer with his family responsibilities. As a loving father to his wife Sheila and daughters Bridget and Morgan, Tom becomes an integral member of the police force and leads a social outreach program to mend social stigmas through his shared Irish heritage.
Ford’s portrayal of Tom as a tender and loving family man is a departure from his usual roles as a battle-hardened hero. His chemistry with Margaret Colin, who plays Sheila, elevates the scenes that could have been dismissed as melodrama. The movie also showcases Ford’s snappy sense of humor as he teases Julia Stiles, who plays his younger daughter, when she develops an interest in a young Irish man who comes to stay with them.
The Devil’s Own also features Brad Pitt as Irish Republican Agent Rory Frankie, who stays with Tom as part of the social outreach program. Despite his efforts to keep his true loyalties to the IRA hidden from Tom, Frankie’s rash and emotional reactions to shocking situations put him in danger, and Tom must help him get out of it. The movie presents a more vulnerable and nuanced hero, unlike Ford’s previous roles, and highlights his ability to bring depth and empathy to his characters.
While The Devil’s Own may have been considered a disappointment, it is a thought-provoking crime thriller that deserves more recognition. The film delves into political conspiracy and organized crime, which is rarely explored in movies today. Harrison Ford’s performance as Tom O’Meara shows his range as an actor and proves that he is a master of his craft.
Harrison Ford is unquestionably one of the greatest actors of all-time. Simply playing the legendary smuggler Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise would have earned Ford a place in film history, but it was his role as the titular hero in the Indiana Jones franchise that suggested that he may in fact be the definitive face of heroism on the big screen. Between Rick Deckard in the Blade Runner series, Jack Ryan in the Tom Clancy adaptations The Patriot Games and Clear and Present Dangerand his Academy Award nominated role as Detective John Book in WitnessFord has a monopoly on great film characters. His performance as the Irish-American Sergeant Tom O’Meara in 1997’s The Devil’s Own may not have been held in the same high regard, but it is equally deserving of praise.
The Devil’s Own served as another collaboration between Ford and director Alan J. Pakula, who previously directed him to another underrated performance in 1990’s Presumed Innocent. Pakula is a master of the espionage genre, and that notion of getting the same director of All The President’s Men, Klute, and The Parallax View to helm a crime thriller with Ford was an inherently exciting one. Even though the film was considered to be a financial success and grossed over $140 million at the worldwide box office, it was met with largely negative reactions. Ford himself defended the film in a recent interview with Vanity Fairwhich suggests that The Devil’s Own may be the most underrated film of his entire career.
An Unlikely Family Man Hero
While he’d occasionally played fathers in films like Regarding Henry and Age of Adelineseeing Ford as a normal, loving father was unlike anything else that he’s attempted. In The Devil’s OwnTom must balance his responsibilities to the police force with spending time with his wife Sheila (Margaret Colin) and young daughters Bridget (Julia Stiles) and Morgan (Ashley Acarino). While Chief Jim Kelly (Mitchell Ryan) reminds him of his professional obligations he also knows that Tom is a loving family man and integral member of the police force. Having someone who can help mend social stigmas through his shared Irish heritage and loyalty to the police force makes him the ideal choice to lead a social outreach program.
One of the issues with Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was that Ford’s relationship with Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and their son Mutt Williams (Shia Labeouf) never felt like a realistic family unit. It felt odd to see a character like Indy frequently place his loved ones in danger, especially when he had no plan to rescue them. While there was a slightly more realistic dynamic between Ford and Carrie Fisher’s matured version of Princess Leia in Star War: The Force Awakensthey only share a few scenes before Han Solo is killed by his son, Ben Solo (Kylo Ren); an embarrassing scene of Ford as a “force ghost” in the disastrous 2019 sequel Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker did their relationship no favors.
Ford’s fatherhood is only briefly touched upon in his roles in Blade Runner 2049, Clear and Present Danger, and The Fugitivebut The Devil’s Own is one of the few “action-centric” projects where he’s playing a more loving family man. The tender chemistry he has with Colin really elevates scenes that could have been dismissed as nothing but melodrama. Additionally, it’s just fun to see someone with Ford’s snappy sense of humor tease Stiles when his younger daughter begins showing an interest in the young Irish man that comes to share their home.
Contending With a Younger Star
Ford had to share the screen with the leading man of another generation thanks to Brad Pitt. Pitt co-stars as the Irish Republican Agent Rory Frankie, who has secretly used the fake name of “Rory Devaney” to become Tom’s house guest thanks to a social outreach effort by the local judge Peter Fitzimmons (George Hearn). Frankie is tasked with buying weapons from the ruthless dealer Billy Burke (Treat Williams), who was a suspect in the murder of Tom’s partner on the police force Edwin Diaz (Ruben Blades).
However, Frankie is still young and foolish. He may be able to mask his true loyalties to the IRA from someone like Tom, who is only a street-level police officer with little knowledge of the more complicated criminal conspiracies, but he’s also rash and quick to make emotional reactions to shocking moments. Frankie’s affinity for his co-conspirator Megan Doherty (played in an underrated performance by Natasha McElhone) ends up putting him into danger that Tom has to help him get out of.
Showing a More Nuanced Hero
Compared to Ford’s more grizzled version of Jack Ryan, Tom isn’t a battle-scarred veteran who has earned a significant amount of battle scars. Ford has never failed to be in great physical shape for a role, but it was interesting to see him take on the type of hero who experienced life-threatening circumstances more rarely. The result was a more vulnerable, empathetic hero who felt like they could be killed off at any moment. Tom is clearly in over his head when he has to face off against Irish Republic bombers; he’s faced off against his fare share of criminals during his experience as a police officer, but he’s never dealt with such an organized criminal organization.
Perhaps The Devil’s Own was considered a disappointment considering the sheer number of action films that Ford had starred in or all of the achievements within Pakula’s career, but the film isn’t a “lesser” project in either of their filmographies. It warrants further examination on behalf of film fans that enjoy the 1990s era of political conspiracy thrillers, as it seems to be the type of intelligent crime thriller that is rarely made anymore.