“All right, listen up, ladies and gentlemen; our fugitive has been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground, barring injuries, is four miles per hour. That gives us a radius of six miles. What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, hen house, outhouse, and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive’s name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him.”
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 thrown 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, 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 in which we’re used 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 slowly 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 dialoguthat you and I may use in a similar scenario. All of the acting is delivered in a manner that is realistic and enjoyable.
The Fugitive is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The ultra-high-definition image presentation is arrived at with an HEVC codec at an average of 70 mbps. The film was shot on 35mm, so is native 4K. I had a lot of issues with the Blu-ray release many years ago. I found the image presentation to be unstable, as if it were somehow torn between staying true to the source material and showing off what was a new shiny format at the time. Warner Brothers appears to have gone back to scratch for this one, and it was a wise decision, indeed. Colors are once again stable. Their is a coherence here that wasn’t present before. That means a return to detail with nice texture, particularly in the sewers and at the famous dam sequence. Some soft focus issues also appear to have been corrected. With a solid presentation of black levels and shadow definition, I feel like this is really the first time the film has truly been available on home video. There are still issues that relate back to the source material. Exterior lighting has always felt a bit washed out, and that continues here. But the added detail makes such elements less of a distraction.
The Dolby Atmos audio presentation defaults to 7.1. 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. Dialog is easily clear, while it seemed that sequences like the aforementioned train crash seemed more vibrant and defining than ever. The James Newton Howard score really stands out here. You get better bottom here that assists with everything from score to dialog. Dialog cuts through fine. Surrounds are not cheated from the source here and serve mainly to make the picture a bit more immersive.
There is only the UHD disc. Here’s what you’ll find there:
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 were 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 Thrill Of The Chase: This is a more recent retrospective of the film.
The Fugitive 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 age of the stone-cold thriller seems 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 themselves. Instead of relying on the typical explosions, The Fugitive relies on its own intelligence and skill to create one of the best thrillers of its time.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani