The Fugitive (1993 USA)

fugitivewideThere are some films which are pretty much perfect (for what they are). ‘The Fugitive’s’ beauty lies in its simplicity (not to mention the excellent performances from its two main stars). If you like thrillers, if you like tension, if you like mystery or you just like either/or Harrison Ford or Tommy Lee Jones then you’re in for a treat. In fact, if you like good films in general you really should check it out. Despite its two-hour running time, it flies by.

Based on the popular David Janssen 1960s TV series, the film faithfully follows the same premise; a doctor is accused of his wife’s death, but escapes before his execution, and tracks down the ‘one-armed man’ responsible for the murder, as a driven law officer attempts to recapture him. Being a big-budget film however, the scale of everything is expanded. Dr Richard Kimble is now a brilliant vascular surgeon at a major Chicago hospital. The handicapped killer is a dirty ex-cop working on orders from crooked board members of a billion-dollar pharmaceutical firm. And the lawman is no longer a solitary police lieutenant, but a deputy United States Marshal, and his team of agents!

While some fans of the original series complained that the ‘intimacy’ the series had was lost, director Andrew Davis only used the ‘bigger’ aspects as plot elements, placing the focus, wisely, on the dual stories of Kimble’s search, and Gerard’s pursuit. Despite the esteem the film has achieved over the years, Harrison Ford has gotten a bad rap for his very understated performance as Richard Kimble. While Tommy Lee Jones certainly had a far flashier role (earning him an Oscar as ‘Best Supporting Actor’), Ford’s intent wasn’t to play ‘Indiana Jones’, but a man whose whole life was dedicated to his career as a surgeon, and his wife (played, in flashbacks, by Sela Ward).

The-Fugitive-1993-film-images-5649b3f8-00a7-4539-b02d-08b1370110bSeeing his wife brutally murdered devastated him (his scene in the police interrogation room, going to pieces, was largely improvised on the set, and displays some of his finest acting). His search for the killer was not the confident quest of an action hero, but based on uncertain, spur-of-the-moment decisions made by a desperate man, whose medical background was his only tool. Fear does not lend itself to flashy theatrics. Jones, as Marshal Sam Gerard, is a seasoned veteran, the best at what he does. Pursuing a fugitive was ‘old hat’ for him. With a confidence bordering on arrogance, he orders people about like chess pieces, multi-tasked without breaking a sweat, and still could charm with a wicked smile and sarcastic remark.

Of course he wins the audience’s heart. Meanwhile Ford is the stand-up, competent professional saving lives and patting kids on the head as he plunges through sewers and off the top of a towering waterfall, stealing an ambulance, surviving a bullet wound and a bus wreck, etc. Featuring some of the most spectacular action scenes ever recorded on film, this is still remembered primarily for the suspenseful Jones/Ford ‘cat-and-mouse’ chase, cross-country, and the grudging respect that grows between them…which, ultimately, was what the TV series was best remembered for as well.

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Comments

  1. I always loved this film. As you said, the performances are spot on and the characters unforgettable because of it. the plot is pretty striaght forward but it is so well played that it feels richer than it actually is. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My pleasure. And thank you for commenting! 🙂

    Like

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