Harrison Ford did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast.
Peter Weir was the only director who managed to direct Harrison Ford to an Oscar nomination. Ford was nominated for Weir's Witness for a fairly prototypical Ford leading man style performance, a good enough performance but pretty standard performance from him. Ford worked once again with Weir for this film which came out only a year after witness. Ford was not Oscar nominated for this film despite this being a very against his usual type. Ford did find some recognition for it but he probably sunk by the film's tepid reception when it originally came out, and perhaps because Ford plays a character a little too far from his usual type since Ford's characters tend to be likable that is not the case for Allie Fox.
From the beginning of the film it is made abundantly clear that this is not action hero Harrison Ford. In his earliest scene all that Allie Fox does is basically bash the current state of America then proceed to harass a hardware employee for giving him a Japanese product rather than an American one. Ford's performance here perhaps shows how Hugh Jackman perhaps should have positioned himself in a similar role in Prisoners. Allie Fox is a survivalist and Ford shows this in an underlying intensity within Allie. Ford though doesn't overplay this aspect of Allie here though showing in the words he is speaking but not allowing the intensity to completely control his behavior. At this point Ford successfully allows one to think that Allie could easily be all bluster, but then again it might not be.
Harrison Ford brings a natural eccentricity to the role that does not completely cut you off from him early on as he tries to show off one of his inventions which while genius is not necessary in the modern society. Ford shows such an honest enthusiasm with the invention that he makes it actually makes him at least slightly easy to sympathize, but more importantly why his family would be so much behind him from the start of their journey. Ford in his best and most notable heroic performances as Han Solo and Indiana Jones managed to be tough with an undercurrent of humor and warmth. Ford once again here does use that natural warmth he is able to bring as Allie speaks to his family about his ideas. He may seem like a nut, but at least a nut who can at least get his family behind him.
Allie in his paranoia, and like Toshiro Mifune's character in I Live in Fear, insists a relocation must take place in order to survive the upcoming holocaust that he is absolutely sure will occur. Ford rather brilliantly subverts many of his usual qualities as an actor in use of Allie here. When he first locates to the jungle with his family and some others to create a self sustaining society Allie seems very much the capable leader. Ford in all of his best performances exudes command and charisma which he does here as well. Ford though does not play it as he would one of his heroes though, rather he put it in a very powerful personality he brings to Allie that is nothing like his other roles. Although the society does not become a cult, Ford in these earlier scenes suggests that Allie very well could have created one if he wished, which is appropriate to his early success in the project.
There is always a shroud Ford brings to his performance that is carefully played to suggest the narrow mindedness of Allie. There is a peculiar intensity he places in Allie. He is rather fascinating in the way he interacts with basically everyone else in the film. Ford even when he may technically be directly interacting with someone else that there is this distance to Allie. When he speaks he often seems to be speaking to himself in some way, and Ford creates a man with a true tunnel vision. In every scene Ford never creates a full chemistry with anyone, even in the way he physically interacts Ford suggests a certain dismissive quality in his interactions with others in his body language, which is essential to the development of Allie's downfall that takes for the rest of the film.
Allie actually seems to find perfect success in the jungle except that he really is not satisfied completely for no real reason, and later he finds a society tends to need things like the police for a reason. When these problems start to turn up what laid beneath the surface begins to arise in Ford's performance. As Allie slowly devolves into madness Ford is extremely good firstly because he properly hinted at the development beforehand, but just importantly he never overplayed his hand earlier. When the madness comes out Ford brings it out in such a natural and completely brutal way. His leadership becomes a dictatorship and any weakness, even from his children, he treats like betrayal. Ford is very chilling in these scenes because of how casually cruel Allie becomes and how he so disconcertingly loses the warmth that he did have earlier on.
In the late scenes of the film Ford does not shy away from being completely unlikable as Allie goes completely off the deep end in his treatment toward his family. What makes Ford's performance so good is that he technically keeps Allie on the exact same course he was from the beginning. It is still just all about his world view and survivalist ideas, yet developments have suggested that he is wrong. Ford rather than showing Allie reflect on any of these instead only shows the intensity grows as Allie basically must force himself to be even more fervent for his cause, as he becomes a desperate man who refuses to be proven wrong. The insanity Ford creates is palatable and always believable because from the moment we have seen him on screen he started building to the point he reaches at the end, giving a honest yet so horrible depiction of a man who refuses to lose his beliefs.
Watching this film again after so many years made me remember more clearly the circumstances of my original viewing, which was actually probably less than half of the film. Anyway even though I knew what it was about when I caught up with a review of the film I was surprised that Harrison Ford actually played the lead, because only seeing the second half I had not at all recognized him. That is one of the strengths of this performance though because Ford does disappear so effectively into Allie Fox. This could have easily been De-glamorization just for the sake of the shock of it, but no you forget about that pretty quickly as Ford becomes Allie. It is a shame that this film failed both critically and commercially as Ford takes this challenge of Allie Fox and gives a great portrait narrow minded madness. All I can wonder if this had been more of a success perhaps Ford would have continued to challenge himself rather than take the path he did take which was to slowly give lazier and less interesting performances in action movies.