Woman on the Run is a very old school noir title that makes for a good thriller. The film definitely feels like it ends rather quickly but the movie has fast pacing so something is always happening. You’ll also have to decide who you’re rooting for since in this case each character has a reason for why they’re either running or in pursuit.
The movie starts with Frank walking his dog when he witnesses someone trying to arrange a solid deal for himself. It clearly wasn’t the right move as the guy gets shot and Frank almost meets the same fate. The cops quickly show up and explain that this is relating to a mob investigation and the guy who died was going to be the big witness. They now want Frank to be the witness. When he askes if he will have any real protection they basically say no so he dashes out of there. Inspector Ferris is forced to ask Frank’s wife Eleanor for help but unfortunately the two are having a bit of a rocky time in their marriage and she is very uncooperative.
Despite her front with the cops, Eleanor is a little concerned particularly when she finds out that Frank has a relatively serious health condition and needs some pills as soon as possible. She heads out to find him only to be caught by a reporter named Danny. He decides to tag along with her since he really wants a scoop. Will they be able to find Frank before the cops do or are his days of running over?
First off, while I understand this is an important case for the police, I absolutely get why Frank would bolt. The fact of the matter is that he wouldn’t have much protection. If the case falls through or the guy doesn’t get convicted, they will hunt him down right away. Even if he is convicted, depending on the size of the mob they will certainly retaliate to send a message. In both scenarios Frank is taking an awfully big risk whereas if he escapes, as long as he stays out of touch until the trial is over then he’s set.
Escaping for so long would probably be tough nowadays but back then without cameras and such it wasn’t such a tough plan for him. What helps is that Frank has a lot of friends all over the city. It’s a case of Frank’s good deeds ultimately catching up to him here which worked out well. We don’t see him for most of the film but the guy’s a likable character. He’s got a quick wit as well and just does a good job of staying one step ahead of everyone.
Eleanor is really the main character here and she does a great job. She gets a lot of the best lines in the first half of the film as she constantly has something sarcastic to say about about Frank. It’s clear that she isn’t even trying to help solve the case either. She is very much a person who likes to do everything on her own and this is what leads to her own personal investigation. It also helps her understand Frank more and leads to a solid character arc there.
As for Inspector Ferris, he’s a good guy. He may have the rather unpleasant task of having to search for Frank right now but he seems like a good guy. Ferris is also thorough in his searching and does pick up on a lot of clues. The ones he doesn’t quite win are clues he couldn’t possible understand since they are based on experiences only Frank and Eleanor would know. Ferris also has good aim with his weapons and doesn’t freeze up under pressure. He’s someone that you will want to have in your corner.
Then there’s the reporter Danny. Well, he’s fairly clever in his own right but I can’t say I was a big fan of the guy. He was openly flirting with Eleanor quite early on despite the fact that she is married and has a hard time recovering from that. He does come in handy with helping get her through the plan to find Frank but that’s about it. He’s a crucial part to the story and it was nice having someone who was trying to compete with Eleanor intellectually but he doesn’t quite stack up against the other characters.
Where the film really shines here is with the writing. It’s a classic race against time with everyone trying to find Frank. The film isn’t doing anything wildly different or being super ambitious but the execution of the plot is quite strong so it really works out. The movie has no real weaknesses. Everything adds up and turns this into a great film. Each character comes out of this stronger. Frank was a little over the top with trying to be a perfectionist even if it meant bringing no money in so by the end you feel like he’ll be better with this. Eleanor didn’t always take the right message from things but wouldn’t actually talk about it and now I think she would be ready to have more of an open dialogue. I don’t think Ferris would really change but he doesn’t need to anyway since he already did well.
Overall, Woman on the Run is a great film. Sometimes it’s a simple film like this that can really shine because then everything is all on the writing and this film delivers. If you like a solid thriller then I’d recommend this film. Don’t expect a ton of big action scenes or things like that though as this is more of a low key adventure. We do have a real climax though but you shouldn’t be here for the fights in this case. It’s more about finding Frank and getting some answers out of him.