“An innocent man has nothing to fear — remember that.”
Response to Peary’s Review:
Fonda is well-cast in the title role; he’s the ideal “everyman”, an “initially dull Hitchcockian hero whose every minute is planned out and whose life doesn’t vary at all from day to day” — and a rare Hitchcockian protagonist “without any sense of humor” whatsoever. Miles provides a nuanced, sensitive portrayal as his increasingly disturbed wife, and the supporting performances throughout the film — many by seemingly unknown actors — are finely rendered; note, for instance, the utter believability of the three terrified women in the Social Security office who initially accuse Fonda’s character. Meanwhile, Robert Burks’s stark cinematography perfectly captures the nightmarish noir milieu within which Fonda and his family find themselves, and fine use is made of authentic New York City locales.
With all that said, I must now admit to postponing my revisit of this highly regarded Hitchcock title for as long as possible; as DVD Savant puts it, “There’s nothing wrong with this picture except that it breaks Hitchcock’s primary rule – it doesn’t please the audience.” Hitchcock’s fidelity to the real-life story he was telling results in an oddly depressing and disturbing viewing experience; while The Wrong Man is undeniably a masterful film on many levels, it’s one which most film fanatics will probably want to consider a “once and done” title. At the very least, any viewer will come away with a heightened understanding of the importance of never, ever providing information to the police without first consulting a lawyer; Fonda’s best intentions here (giving lie to the oft-repeated quote that “an innocent man has nothing to fear”) do nothing but get him even deeper into trouble.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)