Laudable Tommy Lee
by John Farr
This week, one of John Farr’s favorite working actors makes an appearance on Reel 13. Here’s John’s selection of can’t-miss Tommy Lee Jones performances.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Based on the life of country-music star Loretta Lynn, this affecting film traces Lynn’s rise from humble beginnings in the coal-mining hills of Kentucky to star of the Grand Old Opry. Her husband Mooney (Tommy Lee Jones) serves as muse and manager, but finds his role minimized once she hits it big. As for Loretta, the touring life is anything but glamorous. Yet through a range of conflicts which could easily demolish other unions, Mooney and Loretta’s love endures.
WHY I LOVE IT:
Apted’s affecting, flavorful biopic is the tale of a young woman intent on using her musical gift to escape an impoverished mountain life, and also the unvarnished story of a real marriage, filled with bruises and bumps, that still manages to last. Spacek won the Oscar that year for her note-perfect performance as Loretta (which included singing her own parts), but Jones is every bit as good as Mooney. Also look for an impressive take by Beverly D’Angelo on the legendary Patsy Cline.
The Fugitive (1993)
Andrew Davis’s adaptation of the 60’s TV series involves Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), a prominent Chicago doctor accused of murdering his wife. The jury doesn’t buy Kimble’s story about confronting a one-armed man in his apartment the night his wife was killed, and he is convicted. When Kimble escapes custody, he hunts the real culprit, and ace U.S Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) gets assigned to track him down. Will Gerard get to Kimble before the doctor can clear himself?
WHY I LOVE IT:
A textbook example of a first-rate thriller, buoyed by Davis’s breathless pacing and a picture-stealing performance from Jones, who won an Oscar. Drawing from his Indiana Jones days, Ford is just right as the besieged hero always one step ahead of disaster, but Jones’s Gerard, whose drive is offset by a wry, folksy humor, is intensely charismatic as the intrepid hound-dog on Kimble’s trail. Over ten years after its initial release, it’s worth another peek if you haven’t seen it since. First-timers should definitely plunge.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Deep in the desert of West Texas, lone hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon a $2 million cache in the aftermath of a professional drug deal gone very bad. When he returns to retrieve the money, he sets in motion a long, violent chain of events. Though he doesn’t realize it yet, an unfathomably evil killer named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is methodically tailing him, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Meanwhile local sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), wearied and disillusioned by his job, maintains a slow-motion pursuit.
WHY I LOVE IT:
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the Coen brothers’ multiple Oscar winner is their darkest movie yet, featuring an outstanding performance by Bardem as an enigmatic madman whose weapon of choice is a cattle-bolt stun gun. Brolin and Jones turn in solid work, too, as men whose personal experience with violence colors their decision-making in markedly different ways. Tense and gripping, “No Country” taps into our anxieties about a world that seems to have lost its sense of moral order.