If you ask people to think of Harrison Ford, most will conjure up images of Han Solo or Indiana Jones. While unavoidably and understandably synonymous with two of the most iconic characters in cinema history, it is worth remembering that he has appeared in more than 80 films aside from those two franchises. Now on Blu-ray is a collection of five films that demonstrate Ford’s more thoughtful side; less the wisecracking action hero, if you will.
Spanning a period of 25 years in Ford’s career, this collection includes some interesting choices. The earliest film is Frantic (1988), Roman Polanski’s Paris-set cat-and-mouse thriller that plunges Ford’s confused doctor into an underworld tightly woven with intrigue and mystery. The plot may become apparent long before the on-screen reveal, but Frantic is an accomplished, noir-inspired film which is more an example of the work of its director than his star, although Ford does seem to thrive under Polanski’s guidance. Whodunnit and partial courtroom drama Presumed Innocent (1990) carries much of Frantic’s style, and does a better job of hiding its plot twists but labours a little until the final act. Ford’s murder-accused prosecutor moodily mumbles his way through in what is a very reserved performance that is overshadowed slightly by Raul Julia’s witty defence lawyer and Brian Dennehy’s unscrupulous politician. That said, it is an emotion-filled lead role that Ford occupies superbly.
The theme of understatement is prevalent in the remaining 3 films in the collection. The Fugitive (1993) became a star-making vehicle for Tommy Lee Jones as his U. S. Marshall delivers quotable dialogue that will be the thing you remember from the film. The wrongly accused Dr. Richard Kimble is a more subdued character, but once again Ford handles the quiet complexity well. Firewall (2006) is without doubt the weakest film here, with Ford’s bank security expert being blackmailed by Paul Bettany’s besuited thief. The plot never really feels thought through, with random plot turns and inexplicable character decisions detracting from what is fundamentally a simple but interesting premise.
The final film is baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s biopic, 42 (2013). Here Ford hams it up as general manager Branch Rickey but this is Chadwick Boseman’s film. Avoiding most of the obvious clichés, 42 is an insightful portrayal of a black man entering what was a racist, white man’s sport and is an interesting, focussed account of a period in the life of a sporting icon. An important and relevant film, regardless of your preference for baseball or otherwise.
What is clear from this collection is that starring in a film with Harrison Ford is good for your career. These might not be the best examples from the filmography of one of Hollywood’s true greats (Ford’s one Oscar nomination was for Witness), but with the exception of the disappointing Firewall, they are all worthy of a Friday night’s viewing.
HARRISON FORD COLLECTION / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: HARRISON FORD, TOMMY LEE JONES, RAUL JULIA, PAUL BETTANY, SEAN YOUNG, CHADWICK BOSEMAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW