Film Review: The Devil's Own - Bad script? Feuding actors? No problem
The Devil's Own
Directed by Alan Pakula
Written by Kevin Jarre, David Aaron Cohen, and Vincent Patrick
Starring Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Margaret Colin, Ruben Blades, and Treat WilliamsBy Teresa Huang
The Devil's Own is an emotional look at the two sides of justice and rebellion. This quiet suspense drama contains strong character performances by Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt as two men whose personal and professional beliefs are at odds with each other and themselves.
The action takes place in New York City in 1992. Brad Pitt plays Frankie McGuire, an angry rebel in the Irish Republican Army whose hostility is driven by the memory from his childhood of seeing his father gunned down by a masked terrorist. As he grows up, the struggle in Ireland becomes much more symbolic for him than political. In order to help his cause and avoid capture by the British secret service, he travels to the United States under the alias Rory Devaney with intentions to purchase Stinger missiles that could change the balance of power in Ireland. Peter Fitzsimmons, a New York judge and Irish loyalist played by George Hearn (Sneakers), arranges for Rory to stay in the suburban Staten Island home of Sergeant Tom O'Meara, played by Harrison Ford, an unsuspecting New York police officer who thinks he's giving an Irish immigrant a place to stay while he gets settled in the United States.
The O'Meara family is warm, compassionate, and tender with each other and with their guest. For the first time in his life, Devaney sees what his life could be without constant war, and feels torn between his commitment to the beliefs which dictate his hazardous lifestyle and the affection and hospitality he receives from the O'Meara family. When O'Meara's family is threatened by his presence, the truth emerges and Tom O'Meara is faced with a conflict between his lifestyle of justice and his new-found friendship with Devaney. How can he arrest someone who he believed and trusted? Betrayals abound and the tensions climax as Devaney's mission to secure the weapons reaches completion.
The Devil's Own spends almost the entire movie developing the two main characters, showing how they deal with personal setbacks and professional problems. Pitt's character has an unpleasant encounter with arms dealer Billy Burke, played by Treat Williams (Mulholland Falls), and the way Devaney deals with him is contrasted by the way Ford's character deals with witnessing a fatal mistake by his friend and coworker Sergeant Edwin Diaz, played by Ruben Blades (The Color of Night). The leading men seem like they should be complete opposites, but they find a camaraderie and bond that is so strong, not even Devaney's lies can destroy it.
Though this film has been criticized for being too character-driven and not violent enough, I believe that's what makes it a fresh and original movie. Devoid of exploding cars or bombs, the action is close enough to home that the conflict seems moving, yet it's impressive enough to fill the big screen. Both Pitt and Ford are compelling in their roles and the conflict that arises between them becomes almost inevitable as we see their characters develop.
The Devil's Own is a welcome change among an era of violent political blockbusters. Though both stars have been vocal about problems with the script, nothing seems out of place in this film, which is refined and powerful in its subtlety. The Devil's Own may be relatively subdued for a Hollywood movie involving the IRA, but it presents the struggle between destiny and duty in a real and heartfelt way.