When Double Jeopardy was first released towards the end of the 20th Century, this crime caper, mixed with drama, mystery and thriller elements, captivated audiences. Starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones (in a role that wasn’t dissimilar from his Oscar winning role in The Fugitive, this tale of a woman who is wronged by her husband and seeks revenge raked in nearly $180 million worldwide. Today audiences are still fascinated with this movie as it is one of the most watched films on Netflix.
The question is why?
Why after over 20 years does Double Jeopardy still elicit such a passionate reaction from fans. Is it Ashley Judd? Well, the biggest movie she’s been in recently would have to be Divergent. Judd wasn’t even the star of that film (based on the popular series by Veronica Roth), Shailene Woodley was.
Is it Tommy Lee Jones? He is certainly one of America’s best and celebrated actors. However, it isn’t like he’s been on many moviegoers minds as of late. He was in Ad Astra as Brad Pitt’s father but that wasn’t a Tommy Lee Jones movie. The same could be said of his roles Jason Bourne, Lincoln, or any of the work he’s done since the multi-award winning No Country for Old Men.
The reason for Double Jeopardy being so popular on Netflix is actually quite simple. This film gives movie-goers everything they want in a cinematic experience. It doesn’t matter that this movie is 20 years old. It makes no difference whether users are watching it on their TVs, tablets or their phones. Double Jeopardy is a solid crime, drama, mystery, all wrapped up in a thriller.
This story of Libby (Ashley Judd) who gets framed for the murder of her husband (Nick), has more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at. Libby serves time but discovers, while still incarcerated, that her husband is actually alive. She gets out of jail and believes she can actually kill nick due to the Double Jeopardy law (embedded in the Fifth Amendment) that won’t let her be tried for the same crime twice. Enter Tommy Lee Jones as Travis, a parole officer that is on to Libby’s scheme.
Overriding all of this is the appeal that Double Jeopardy has for its viewers. This appeal is centered around the paternal love a parent feels for a child. All Libby wants to do is be with her child. It’s why she is, how she is, who she is, and it informs every aspect of what she does. As we go through this pandemic many people are having that paternal love tested in ways they never could’ve imagined. First and foremost, they all want to protect their kids. At the same time they don’t want them to lose out on educational opportunities, job opportunities, and everything else that generations before them others have had access to. People are stuck at home feeling helpless a lot of the time.
Then they watch Double Jeopardy and they see Libby who finds herself in a helpless situation. However, Libby does something about it. She shows that there’s a way out and audiences really seem to be gravitating toward that sense of empowerment that Ashley Judd so deftly puts across. Double Jeopardy is a very satisfying film. For it’s characterizations, the way it was shot, and its ability to get justice for our main character. Right now, a lot of people have had things taken away from them due to COVID-19. Double Jeopardy reminds us that we can power through any situation and come out whole at the end.
So we see the fierceness that Libby battles her situation in Double Jeopardy of being falsely accused. The other side of that coin is how she bucks the “old boy” system of incarceration. Libby gets done dirty by a man. Her whole situation is in the fate of men. It’s really only Travis who understands whats motivating her. So with literally the world against her, Libby presses forward with a plan to not only make her husband pay but to redeem herself. This puts her squarely in the path of men and women who would rather she just remain forgotten. It’s Libby’s resilience against all of these obstacles that ultimately wins the day and it’s why she is able emerge at the end of the film in a stronger position.
Lastly, Double Jeopardy at an hour and 45 minutes sizzles in every frame. The set-up, in which we see Libby get framed by Nick, is well done and in no time we see her perfect world collapse. Eventually, she gets released from prison with her whole reason for existing to exact revenge on her husband. From here the movie becomes a game of cat and mouse as Libby pursues Nick, and Travis tries to keep tabs on her. Directed by Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, Driving Mrs. Daisy) it is clear that he put character at the forefront of this movie. It is because of this that audiences are still, so many years later, invested in this film. It’s why, during a pandemic, many people are able to key into the story being told. They see themselves and this infection in these characters. Some of us are Libby, others are Travis, and many see Nick, or what he represents, as a virus that needs to be gotten rid of.
Still is powerful as it was two decades ago, Double Jeopardy shows that some movie truisms will never fade. If you can make an audience care by identifying with their characters on a visceral level, you will truly have a piece of cinema that stands the test of time.