Today’s Prayer Focus

The Devil's Own

Reviewed by: Ken James

Moral Rating: Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: 17 to Adult
Genre: Action Adventure
Length: 107 min.
Year of Release: 1997
USA Release:
Featuring Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Margaret Colin, Ruben Blades, Natascha McElphone, George Hearn, Mitchell Ryan
Director Alan J. Pakula
Distributor: Columbia Pictures. Trademark logo.
Columbia Pictures
, a division of Sony Pictures

So says Frankie McGuire (as he is known in Ireland), alias Rory Devaney (Brad Pitt), a notorious IRA “freedom fighter,” to Irish-American New York city cop, Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford). While both may be of Irish origin, that is where the similarities cease.

Tom O'Meara is a compassionate, honest, God-fearing family man who, with twenty years on the police force, has only fired his gun three times. Rory Devaney, on the other hand, takes little thought of a divine Creator, choosing on his own to end the life of whomever stands in the way of the IRA. He cannot understand what it is to live a life of peace, having witnessed as a young boy the brutal slaying of his father.

After narrowly escaping his own appointment with death in Belfast, Rory heads to the U.S. where he plans to purchase several Surface to Air Missiles to aid the endeavors of the IRA. He enters America as a seemingly harmless immigrant desiring to escape the violence of his homeland and become immersed in the “land of opportunity.” The O'Meara family graciously take him into their home, unaware of his background. In this innocence, Tom and Rory form an immediate friendship not unlike that which Rory once had with his own father.

Their relationship begins to crumble, however, when mob-style violence penetrates into the O'Meara home as a result of Rory’s dealings with shady characters in the city. Tom begins to suspect there may be something more to the innocent-looking Irishman and takes it upon himself to uncover the truth. Tom will stop at nothing, not even death, to uncover what he knows is righteous and just.

Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt are perhaps the best actors of their generation. Their on-screen chemistry surpassed my expectations, as did the filmmakers wise decision to omit any hint of sensuality, nudity, or sex… However, the brutal violence (shootings, bombings, blood, heads without bodies) and incessant swearing do lead to disappointment.

As the main family in “The Devil’s Own”, the O'Meara’s are happy, honest and hard-working. They are active in their faith (Catholicism) and display a higher moral character than you would expect from most Americans. Tom cares greatly about following the truth to any extent… and when faced with his own weakness in covering for another officer who acted out-of-line, he searches out his own morals and realizes the truth must prevail. It is this character trait that compels Tom to succeed on his newfound mission: to find Rory, bring justice, and save him from certain death at the hands of the British.

If you are looking for a happy ending, just remember… “it’s not an American story—it’s an Irish one.”

Q & A

Want to learn more about the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and other important topics in Ireland? Read this commentary

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
I have just watched “The Devil’s Own”, and I cannot believe that the reviewer gave it 4 stars moviemaking quality, and 1½ stars christian viewing. INMHO it should have none on both counts. Even Brad Pitt has called it ’the most irresponsible filmmaking—if you can call it filmmaking—that I’ve ever seen.' The film paints a simplified image of the tragic Northern Ireland, which is all too familiar when Hollywood tries to make films about complex issues.

The movie paints IRA men as fun loving guys, but fails to take note that British soldiers and NI policemen have families who love them (the only Brit we get to meet is demonized). But the main problem of the movie is the last line where Harrison Ford said that neither he nor Pitt had any choice, how can a reviewer that has hangups about swearing and violence fail to see that this is dead set against the christian message that there is always a choice against violence.

If there is never any choice then the 5 kids who were orphaned last week due to an IRA double murder are doomed to a life of loyalist paramilitary violence just to get revenge. The Easter message though tells us that this does not have to be the case, people can turn away from violence, the alternative is self annihilation.
Andy Clucas of Liverpool, UK
I was somewhat disappointed with this film, especially since I have typically enjoyed other pictures that Harrison Ford has played in. It was slow moving, and contained too much foul language for me to really give it a high recommendation for other Christians to see.
dmh, age 29
This quarter I’m taking a film production class from Terrence Ford—Harrison Ford’s brother. Last Wednesday in class, we discussed this film. The class agreed that the script is terrible. The only thing that redeemed this movie was the editing and the cinematography. Why it got four stars in this review I’m not sure. Garbled, pieced together, and with a predictable ending it was by no means an edge-of-the-seat film that you would expect with such “big guns” as Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford. Scarcely believable and with melodramatic characters, I was left wondering are there really cops who would simply quit their jobs because they lied once (okay, we believe you’re really a good guy Tom O'Meara, but people do make mistakes), and how many IRA killers would stand by and get shot just so this could be an “Irish ending.” I left this film feeling sympathy for a murder and wondering if a tragic past is an excuse for future injustice. Isn’t choice and change a possibility or does that not sell tickets anymore?
Stephen Eyer, age 21
If blood and guts are “disappointing” in a morality play like “The Devil’s Own,” I wonder what the reviewer must think of the Bible itself. Violence doesn’t have to numb the senses, it can also heighten pathos and realism.
Len Arends, age 25
I agree with the reviewer’s 4-star rating concerning the quality of the film. I was especially refreshed to see that the producers did not try to offer the kind of simple-minded, easy answer to the Irish situation that too often mars American discussion of the topic. Neither of the main characters were in an easy spot, and the movie didn’t try to change that. Concerning the concerns about language, etc., I would be interested to know what the reviewer and the other commenter were expecting when they walked into an “R”-rated movie.
Todd C. Truffin, age 27
I agree with the reviewer about the overall tone of this movie. However, I sensed a general moral “down-trend” as fear and anger escalated… more f-word use. If producers could get over that, a fine story with a moral would emerge.
Lynn Lowe, age +39