THREE STARS - Thoughtful
Though history gives us many examples of traitors, our fear and fascination of what makes them stoop to such betrayal is as complex as their own deceptions.
Trusted and embraced, the traitor turns against colleague and friend for personal gain. From this trusted place, the ability of the traitor to strike at the heart of good is unparalleled, and from this vantage point, evil is seen in all of its darkest motives.
In most cases, financial gain is a possible incentive, but such a motive does not seem potent enough for a person to be willing to sell their very soul.
“U.S. Marshals” is a sequel to “The Fugitive” not only in the casting of Chief Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) as the pursuer, but also in its complex plot in which an innocent man is the fugitive attempting to clear his good name.
The differences between the two films are many and create equally intriguing explorations of good and evil.
Unlike the original film, the fugitive in “U.S. Marshals” did in fact kill the victims. This complexity in the question of good and evil, innocent and guilty, adds an intriguing reality to our thinking. In similar ways, Deputy Gerard is also presented in a more complex manner, with a grieving anger capable of murder as well.
In “U.S. Marshals,” the level of evil in the person who set up the fugitive is far greater and even more cold-blooded. There is within John Royce (Robert Downing, Jr.) a duplicity which is so well presented as to cause a visceral reaction to his presence.
When one weaves these two threads together, “U.S. Marshals” is a more significant film for the discussion of spiritual issues than was “The Fugitive.”
Authentic spirituality is not easily presented on film. Though we all experience the goodness within us as also having an ever-present contamination of evil, many films are unable to present this struggle and instead present humans as spiritually simplistic. The truth that even in the most mature and noble persons there are contaminated elements tempting them to do evil is a reality this film begins to explore.
The best example is found in the actions of Deputy Gerard after he loses a friend and team member to the treachery of Royce. Although he is unaware of the true villain and seems prepared to take his angry grief out on the innocent fugitive, he is stopped by his own integrity.
This is an authentic experience for most of us. Tempted, lured and even desiring to salve our hurt by taking an angry vengeance, there comes a moment of decision in which the good person does not step over the line. It is in these moments of opportunity that good becomes stronger and more protective of innocence.
The comparison between this complexity and the pure evil of Royce is a powerful message within the film.
Royce is not who he appears to be. As others entrust their lives into his hands, they are unaware that such a trust is misplaced and dangerous.
Most often this is the nature of true evil: it shields itself behind the mask of good and wins the trust of those attempting to do good. Then, at the moment when good is closest to succeeding, evil betrays its trust and destroys or attempts to destroy the good.
The moment in the film when this is most obvious is when the innocent fugitive has been apprehended and is in a hospital bed under the protective care of Deputy Gerard and the not yet discovered traitor.
But Gerard is a wise man. Rather than naively walking into situations trusting everyone, he is ever observant of the statements and actions of others to see if they are worthy of his trust. It is this careful observation which allows good to finally win, even over the determined traitor.
As is true in life, evil is based in a temporary place of power which cannot last. Though it may have its day, there are those who marshal the forces of good to defeat it.