The Fugitive, since its’ original release in 1993, has always been seen by a majority of people as the defining thriller of the 1990’s. The film stars Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble. Kimble, a very well known Chicago doctor, has just been framed for killing his wife. He claims a one-armed man killed her, which prompts nearly everyone to laugh at him. Kimble is immediately arrested and sentenced to death in a cold courtroom scene that doesn’t even give Kimble time to defend himself.
Kimble is th…own onto a bus that is to take him to his pending execution. Along the way, an inmate starts to choke, which turns out to be a distraction as he breaks free. A melee ensues and the driver of the bus, naturally, is shot causing the bus to overturn. The bus rolls and rolls down a big hill finally coming to a stop on a set of railroad tracks. Everything seems fine, until one of the guards hears an oncoming train. Kimble, being the type of man he is, decides to save himself and a guard all while literally escaping an oncoming train crash. This sequence, even though it has been over 11 years since I first saw it, it still one of the more impressive action sequences in modern film.
Kimble begins piecing together every little moment as he obviously knows he didn’t kill his wife. All along the way, Deputy Samuel Gerard (Academy Award Winning Tommy Lee Jones) chases this ‘fugitive’ through every hen house, dog house, etc (you know the line if you’ve seen the film). The film is actually based on the original TV series, of which I’ve never seen but have heard mixed feelings about. What Director Andrew Davis brings to the film version is a larger and more impressive world. The film has vivid and bold scenery that only helps to define the Chicago setting.
Some people say this was Ford’s last great film, which is far from the truth. Granted that a majority of his recent film affairs have lacked the determined, brave, heroic type characters we’re use to seeing him (although his recent Firewall seemed to take him back to this), he is still on the top of his game considering his age. Ford as Kimble always seems to keep that determined face on himself all while he jumps from this dam, runs down those stairs, and is extremely crafty in avoiding police officer after police officer. Jones, even though he was typically cast in a villain type role before this film, plays more of a complex character here. It’s obvious what his role is in that he must capture Kimble at all costs, but he starts to use his head and, like Kimble, stars to piece together the puzzles slowing figuring out that Kimble is innocent.
The film presents some scenarios that, once the film is done, we take a look back and realize that they were totally fake. But what makes the events not as a fake as some of the scenes in the modern thriller, is that Davis bases his characters in and around scenarios that ground the characters in real dialogue that you and I may use in a similar scenario. All of the acting is delivered in a manner that is realistic and enjoyable.
The age of a stone cold thriller seem to have come and gone. We don’t seem to ever have crafty, skillful thrillers like The Fugitive anymore. Thrillers seem to be too based on genre content now as they rely on big special effects and typical explosions here and there to help define itself. Instead of relying on the typical explosions, The Fugitive relies on its’ own intelligence and skill to create one of the best thrillers in, at least, the last 10-15 years.
The Fugitive, for the HD-DVD release, has had its’ picture touched up in many ways. The original DVD release (whichever release you decide to take) had a few problems where the picture seemed washed out and a lot of the scenery seemed flat. There was also noticeable grain and a few areas of over bright colors. The HD-DVD release, as per many recent titles, has been cleaned up, but not in the manner we absolutely expect. The aforementioned grain is still noticeable present in a lot of the scenes. Since the film takes place during the winter months, there is an amount of grittiness to the film’s print, which may be intentional. The HD-DVD release seems to emphasis this grittiness mostly which is overextended by the still noticeable amount of grain. I do suppose that since the film is 12 years old, the print should not be 100% perfect, but the issue with older film’s appearing on HD-DVD does not give them a free ticket. Take a look at Goodfellas or the recent released Blazing Saddles to see how an old film should look. While the image quality was improved, there was just still too much noticeable grain, which should have been cleaned up.
The continuing trend of using the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Audio Track has worked for many films so far. The trend continues with The Fugitive, as the overall sound dynamics, from the booming crash caused by the train hitting the bus, to the subtle sounds of water splashing in the dam sequence, are excellent. Dialogue is easily clear, while it seemed that sequences like the aforementioned train crash seemed more vibrant and defining than ever. While the picture tended to suffer just a bit, the audio is certainly in line with more recent releases.
All the features that were on the most recent release of The Fugitive, are found here.
- Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Davis and Actor Tommy Lee Jones: While Davis does do a majority of the talking here, Jones does contribute a bit here and there, despite remaining overall quiet. The information that is conveyed here is very useful and it helps to provide a bit more depth to the film.
- Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck: This feature goes into detail of the train sequence. I found it most interesting how an actual real train and bus was used as it was proven to be cheaper to use the real vehicles than to build miniatures.
- On the Run With the Fugitive: This is your standard making of type feature. The feature has a few interviews from 1993 and a few from today. The most covered topic is how important Davis and the cast felt it was to actual film in and around the Chicago area.
The Fugitive, despite being 12-13 years old, still holds up to this day and, upon viewing the film for the fifth time, is better than ever, especially in comparison to the modern day thriller. The HD-DVD does improve on the DVD picture, but not in the manner I had hoped for. The audio is more explosive and defining than ever before. While the features presented were important and interesting, I’m wondering when some exclusive HD content will be made available. If you already own The Fugitive on DVD, you don’t necessarily need to rush out and grab the HD-DVD version, unless you want slightly improved picture but a dynamite audio track.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Davis and Actor Tommy Lee Jones
- Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck
- On the Run With the Fugitive