But rather than leaving audiences disappointed, this was a huge aspect of the film’s success:
- It solves the Collateral problem: “This guy framed me for a killing, so I’ll track him down and kill him, and that’ll clear my name!” Um, no, that’s not how that works (to be fair, this goes back Hitchcock, in moves like Saboteur.)
- It elevates the movie morally. The audience can’t help feel dirtied by the standard logic of “he’s a killer so let’s kill him!” There’s a reason that this is one of the only thrillers nominated for best picture: nobody’s embarrassed to say they like it.
- It ties in nicely with the movie’s ironic final outcome:
As we discussed last time, it should be frustrating to us that Kimble frequently sabotages his quest, but this turns out to be exactly the right thing to do: If he’s not going to kill the villains, then what can he do with them? Make a citizen’s arrest? No, he has to win the lawmen back to his side, and ironically, he can only do so by sabotaging his cause over and over again in the name of compassion.
Every time Kimble sabotages his cause, he’s bringing about the only truly-satisfactory outcome: winning Gerard over, and reuniting law and justice. We’ll talk more about that thematic dilemma next time…