Richard Harris (to the film illiterate, thats Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series) belongs to a generation of film actors who set a new benchmark in the quality of acting. They elevated the craft of acting to a level that is unfortunately unmatched by most of today’s actors. Most of this generation is still alive such as Sean Connery, Peter O’Toole, Michael Caine, and John Hurt and they continue to produce stellar work. The Field was directed by Jim Sheridan (director of the upcoming Brothers) and it was his follow-up to his very successful My Left Foot. This film was also a comeback of sorts for Harris, who had been out of the scene for awhile. The Field marked a successful comeback that continued for the next decade until he died in 2002.

The Field is reminiscent of late 19th/early 20th century literature and theater in the works of Chekov, D.H. Lawrence, and Ibsen. Not surprisingly, this film was based on a play. Harris plays an Irish farmer who has been toiling on a piece of farmland for 10 years, renting it from a widow and waiting for the day when she will sell her land to him. However, the widow decides to sell the land in an auction to the highest bidder, attracting the attention of a wealthy American (Tom Berenger). The film is a showcase of Harris’ powerful performance. Few actors can express the inner turmoil, the descent into madness, and desperation that Harris so masterfully conveys in this role. There is not a motion, word, or look from Harris that is wasted or inconsequential. Is it any surprise he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1990 (he lost to Jeremy Irons in Reversal of Fortune, another awesome performance from a great actor).

Given how much Richard Harris dominates this film, its amazing that anyone else in this movie could stand on their own against him. Well, John Hurt does as a dimwitted village idiot. Many of you have seen Hurt (Hellboy, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, V for Vendetta, Tron 2, and the final Harry Potter), but few will recognize him because he is a master of completely immersing himself in his character, including the changing of his physical appearance. Hurt will almost make you believe that the director hired a real Irish village idiot to play himself in this movie. Rounding out the case are a young Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Patriot Games, Goldeneye) and Tom Berenger (Platoon and someone I’ve wondered what the hell happened to).

The Field is a simple story that is told through the hand of a master storyteller. I consider Jim Sheridan to be one of Hollywood’s best storytellers whose output, although not very much, is a collection worth owning on DVD (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, In America, The Boxer). The simplicity of the plot is enriched by the characters who inhabit it. Watching The Field felt like reading a very good novel that you can’t put down. The film builds to an escalating climax that is sure to leave you shocked. You watch Harris as he begins to lose control of not only the town, but also of himself so that by the end of the film he is a shell of the man he once was.

I obviously really enjoyed The Field and it is one of the best examples of Richard Harris’ talents and Jim Sheridan’s storytelling. A word of caution: The DVD does not contain subtitles, which would have been GREAT because the Irish accents are very difficult to understand. However, don’t let that prevent you from checking this film out. It is a powerful film that deserves to be rediscovered by audiences.