The Fugitive Blu-ray Review
PictureReading around the subject on the net before writing this review, it would appear that the previous HD DVD release of this film aroused some controversy. Some reviewers complained that it was not a true 1080p picture, but an upscale. I have not seen the HD DVD version, but Warner's have confirmed that all their HD releases are produced from true 1080p masters. The HD DVD version of the film was a VC-1 transfer and the Blu-ray version is an MPEG-2 transfer. Whilst I agree that the transfer is a 1080p master - I still think the quality is poor.
The main problem with this transfer seems to be its inconsistency. Nowhere is this more evident than in the scenes where Kimble is making his way from the bus crash alongside the river. In some shots, the frame has a lot of depth to it, with plenty of detail present in the undergrowth and the river. In other shots from the same scene all the detail seems a lot flatter and the transfer little better than standard DVD. It is most disconcerting, and is not a problem I have noticed on any HD media so far before (although it is early days for me, admittedly).
This inconsistency is present throughout the whole transfer. At times, the transfer looks pristine with an excellent depth of field and superb colour levels. At other times, the colours look washed out and grain is heavy and distracting.
A lot of this, of course, could well be due to the way the film was shot. For example, these are the days before CGI, and special effects shots were done by the use of matte paintings and back projections. This will explain a lot of the grain in some of these scenes, as the increased resolution shows up flaws more readily. However, the flaw is also present in a lot of standard scenes too, and it is difficult to explain these.
Overall, I would say that generally this is a definite improvement over the DVD. When the transfer is at its best, the colour levels are excellent, the detail is tremendous, and the print is clear and pristine. Just beware that for reasons most likely to be to do with the way the film is shot, there are parts of this transfer that will disappoint.
SoundI found the soundtrack for this film a rather mixed bag. The Fugitive was made in the very early days of surround sound, so was originally made with a 5.1 mix. However, early mixes were not always the best examples of the format, as sound designers were still getting used to what could be done with the range of speakers on offer.
The soundtrack offered on this disc is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and is one of the least lively and dynamic mixes I have heard. Indeed, at times I found myself fiddling with my amp and checking my connections to make sure the rears were working.
It would be reasonable to expect some aggressive rear action during the train set piece, but there was none there at all. In fact, the only time I heard the rears getting any use at all were during the flashback scenes that Kimble experiences when remembering his wife. And even then, they are only used for an ambient sound, which underpins the action. Now, it may be that the original mix was like this, and that Warner decided not to artificially beef up the sound or remix it. If that is the case, then it is laudable, but this is still a very disappointing mix for devotees of all developing surround sound.
Having said this, however, the front separation is on of the best sound fields I have yet heard. You truly get a “wide” feeling from the front sound field, if that makes sense. In the city scenes, vehicles can be heard far to the left and the right of your sitting position, as can the helicopter as it is chasing Kimble in the earlier scenes, panning from left to right as it crosses the road and sounding very effective indeed. The music is also well mixed, sounding well balanced and never overpowering the action. The speech is also crystal clear and well centred.
LFE, like the rears is virtually non-existent, only really kicking in during the train crash sequence, and at the top of the dam.
If I was to sum up the sound mix it is that it does sound natural for the film, and like the film itself is rather low key. The lack of surround use is surprising, but in terms of matching the tone of the film, this mix works very well.
ExtrasThe Fugitive was released twice onto DVD - once as a bare bones release, and once as a Special Edition (2001). This Blu-ray release contains all the extras from the Special edition, but brings nothing new to the table.
We are firstly presented with an excellent audio commentary by Director Andrew Davies, and star Tommy Lee Jones. The former is effusive in his commentary, whereas the latter is rather silent and tends to only react to questions from his director. But we are given a lot of information here about the making of the film, the set pieces, and sub plots which were erased from the final cut. Finally, you will understand why Julianne Moore has such a small part in the final edit. This really is an excellent commentary, and Davies is an amiable and interesting companion for a rewatch of the film. The two also provide a filmed introduction to the film, which makes one wonder if their whole commentary was filmed. If it was, it wasn't included - unless it some undiscovered easter egg. One wonders if one day we might see this visual commentary.
We are also presented with two featurettes On the Run and Anatomy of a Train Wreck. The former lasts 23 minutes and is a detailed look at the production of the film. It is very good on technical details, but suffers a little from the lack of input of any of the actors. The latter is a 9 minute look at the major action scene of the film, showing how it was filmed. Two very interesting documentaries that are mercifully free of promotional fluff.
The only other extra is the trailer.
Verdict“The Fugitive” is intelligent, gripping, and well made. The disc is also a solid effort that just about does justice to the feature. Due to the inconsistencies of the transfer, and the lack of a great improvement in the sound, this is probably not worthy of consideration as an upgrade. But if you have not seen the film before, and like intelligent thrillers this is certainly worth a purchase.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £25.99
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