The Fugitive Review
After a previous release on HD DVD, OSCAR winning thriller “The Fugitive” arrives on Blu-ray in the UK. It's at times like this, that this reviewer starts to feel old. Is it really 14 years since this film was released into cinemas? It certainly is, but having been a popular seller on DVD over the years, it now makes its way onto its second HD format.
The film is based on a popular TV series of the sixties, but is a completely self contained thriller. Successful Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) arrives home late one night, to find a one-armed intruder on his house. After the intruder escapes, Kimble finds himself arrested, charged, and convicted of the crime of murder. It would seem that Kimble was rather too late to prevent the intruder violently beating his wife to death.
On the way to the prison, an unfortunate incident involving an attempted escape leads to a spectacular bus/train crash, and our hero finds himself free and on the run. Instead of making for the nearest airport and escaping, however, Kimble returns to his home city in an attempt to prove his innocence and convict the real culprit. On his tail is a rather self-centred FBI agent Samuel Gerrard (Tommy Lee-Jones in an Oscar winning role), who seems to have been on one too many self assertiveness courses.
The Fugitive was a huge success when it came out originally, and has had a profitable life on home media formats. In addition to this, unusually for a thriller, it was nominated for seven OSCARS in 1994, including the coveted Best Picture OSCAR. Tommy Lee Jones also won the statuette for Best Actor in a Supporting role. This may well have something to do with the intelligence of the film. There are very few action set pieces in the movie, and it does not rely on special effects or pyrotechnics. This film does not attempt to make its hero some kind of unbelievable action figure (apart from one rather silly scene where he jumps off a dam). He is an ordinary man, placed in an extraordinary situation, and the plot is well structured so that as an audience we only learn what Kimble learns. We are never ahead of him, and he is never ahead of us. This has the effect of making us really feel for the character, and leaves us constantly guessing and straining our own minds to try and figure out what is happening.
The empathy we feel with the lead character has a lot to do with Ford's sympathetic performance. In the early scenes, where he is being questioned by the cops, and going through the court case - the actor manages to portray a real sense of grief and confusion at the events surrounding him simply through his eye movements and facial expressions. There are no great scenes of emotion, no breaking down - but we still invest a lot in his character and really care for what is happening to him.
The Fugitive, then, is a curiously old fashioned film - one that relies on a plot, script, and quality acting - rather than superficial gimmicks. These are also the reasons why this film still stands up today. Without a raft of special effects to age the film, it still feels fresh and contemporary today. I have to say that I am surprised that Lee Jones gained his acting award, as to me his performance is probably the worst in the film. To me, he is one of the few caricatures in the movie. It is not that his acting is deficient - it is not. It is just that his character has no subtlety to him. He is a one note creation and the performance makes no effort to invest any depth into him. The performance fits the movie well, certainly, but OSCAR worthy? I am not so sure.
The Fugitive, then, is that rare breed. An intelligent, clever, well written thriller that engages the brain as well as the emotion of the viewer. If you are a fan of the modern, more bang for your buck type of thriller, then you are unlikely to get much out of this film. But if you prefer your movies with a little more depth, and you have never entered the world of Dr. Richard Kimble, then you may well find this a very enjoyable experience.